At this college lecture, the students are restless because they do not take their professor seriously, passing around a caricature of him to giggle at as he holds forth on his favourite subject, the Aztecs. He has an artefact from that civilisation in his possession which is said to hold incredibly power despite its unassuming outward appearance of a little clay idol, and it has given the professor the ability to punish those around him, so he causes one of the more vocal students to suffer a nosebleed. But one of his colleagues is onto him, and wants this power for his own - when he goes to confront him, however, he finds the academic impaled on a flagpole in his lecture hall...
Advances in special effects and makeup meant that the techniques trickled down to the lower budget efforts of the nineteen-eighties, and all those setpieces where your protagonist could turn into a werewolf or tear someone's insides out on camera were within the price range of even the most impoverished of productions. Therefore the decade was littered with projects like The Power, the second horror movie from co-directors Stephen Carpenter (who would go onto create the television series Grimm) and Jeffrey Obrow after The Dorm That Dripped Blood and before a similar effects-fest in The Kindred. This middle entry was probably the least of their collaborations.
Not that it was egregiously awful, more that they had established what effects they could use and built their story around them, to the extent the plot itself was half-formed at best and failed to work itself out properly at the beginning, leaving a good twenty minutes where the audience were unsure of where they were supposed to be in this. The colleague was seen travelling to Mexico to get his hands on the idol (wait - didn't the American professor already have it?) resulting in him committing murder to do so, and that still was not the beginning of the story, which had a definite air of them having to fill out the running time with extraneous business to build it up to feature length.
What this was actually about wavered between two sets of characters, a trio of students led by Julie (Lisa Erickson) who are keen to dabble in the occult - cue de rigueur Ouija board sequence – and a couple of journalists, Sandy (Suzy Stokely) and Jerry (Warren Lincoln) who work at a trashy tabloid reporting on UFOs and the like. Jerry is more keen to investigate the idol than his co-worker, and we know why, don't we? Er, don't we? The fact is, precisely why anyone would want to own this blasted object remained a mystery to the end, for it does nothing but cause havoc and misery, therefore the motives for hanging onto it and not, say, burying it in the back yard for the rest of eternity are obscure to say the least. Especially given its propensity for transforming said owners into monsters.
The Power sort of burbles along from effects showcase to effects showcase, yet even those were not hugely impressive when movies with more funds available were able to do more with the latex and fake gore than anything you would see here. There were hints that this could rise above its oddly mundane set of circumstances when the supernatural was put into play, as those who watch these types of films do not want to see a yarn play out as a debunker of all these shenanigans, but even so when Jerry was taken over by the idol it was difficult to invest too much in his plight, or even that of Sandy who tries to be the voice of reason. Characters like hers never come off well in premises like this, and though she was supposed to be the most sympathetic, her insistence that none of the weirdness was real did not endear her to the viewer. In the end, you had some resourceful fright sequences that amounted to very little, and a definite sense of desperation as the directors tried to pad this out. Music by Christopher Young (bizarrely ripping off Saint-Saens' The Aquarium).