Horror review: The First Power

the-first-power

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, APRIL 20, 1990

By Steve Newton

In recent years, horror moviedom’s best-known villains have been masked avengers or burned-up baddies, but there has been the odd attempt to give evil a human face. Rutger Hauer did it perfectly well as the unstoppable blond phantom of The Hitcher, while Terry O’Quinn brought straight-faced terror home as The Stepfather.

When you get right down to it, make-up and masks aren’t nearly as scary as a human countenance hiding a black heart.

As satanic mass-murderer Patrick Channing, Jeff Kober (the demonic drug-dealer from Out of Bounds) is handsomely terrifying. With his deep-set eyes and razor-sharp features, Kober just has the look of wickedness. When he puts on a mask and grabs an axe to chase the film’s hero cop (La Bamba star Lou Diamond Phillips), the mask is just a plastic extension of Kober’s real face–but it’s still enough to give you the willies.

Kober’s portrayal of Channing–a terribly abused child who grew up to enjoy carving pentagrams on his victim’s chests–is undoubtedly the best thing about The First Power, the debut feature by writer/director Robert Resnikoff. But, as veteran detective Russell Logan–whose capture of Channing leads to his execution and rebirth as a vengeful, shape-changing spirit–the youthful Phillips is less than believable. And the love relationship that develops between Logan and the beautiful psychic (Tracy Griffith) who helps him track the killer makes you wonder, too.

With the meanest creature on earth stalking you, bursting through fourth-story windows in the guise of a bag lady or turning a nun into a knife-wielding nasty, who’s got time for romance?

The First Power is a decent fright flick, but it could have been so much better with a few unique twists and without the cliches. It’s certainly scary in spots, but the rip-off ending–straight out of The Omen–really makes you forget the good bits.

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