Corinna Faith makes her feature film debut with this lights out, blackout horror The Power.
Synopsis: London, 1974. As Britain prepares for electrical blackouts to sweep across the country, trainee nurse Val (Rose Williams) arrives for her first day at the crumbling East London Royal Infirmary. With most of the patients and staff evacuated to another hospital, Val is forced to work the night shift, finding herself in a dark, near empty building. Within these walls lies a deadly secret, forcing Val to face both her own traumatic past and deepest fears in order to confront the malevolent force that’s intent on destroying everything around her.
Check out my chat with Corinna.
I didn’t realize that this was your feature film debut. How does that feel?
Corinna: It’s great. It’s been a long time coming. I’m just glad, it’s been fantastic.
What inspired this story?
Corinna: The basic inspiration was my own personal horror at a lot of institutional abuse stories breaking at the time I was looking for something to write about. There was a whole bunch of things in the news about institutional cover ups and quite a few of which were in the 1970s and the sense of all these lost young lives and silenced voices felt like ghost story territory to me. And that was where it grew.
How did you choose to settle on the planned electrical cuts in 1974?
Corinna: I wanted to step into an era. That’s where a lot of these news stories were emanating from and there’d been decades of cover up. There was, in particular, Jimmy Savile, a British presenter, who had access to a lot of young people in hospitals and that was a huge story here. So it was very disturbing. I didn’t really write about that directly but it did lead me to think about the hospital setting. And then I came across the blackout and realized that there was a huge, powerful combination of those elements.
Are you afraid of the dark?
Corinna: I’m afraid of places with atmospheres that I find scary and that could be in the day or the dark, actually. I find they’re certain buildings and locations I’ve had very scary experiences and not necessarily in the dark per se. Although I am generally scared of watching horror films.
Why write a horror film?
Corinna: Well, I mean it’s an enjoyable thing, I’m just saying I’m not immune to them at all. I am very scared of them but I do enjoy the ride.
What is it about the dark that you think scares people and makes a good element to horror?
Corinna: I think it’s really that your own imagination, which is by far the most frightening tool that we have, goes into overdrive. Overdrive fills in a multitude of gaps. I wanted that to happen in this film, for there to actually be quite a lot of space for people to bring all their own anxiety to it, and project things onto that building and within the images. I think it’s really all about imagination. Because, you know, once you’re in the dark, it’s whatever is in your head that’s an issue.
One thing I really really liked about your movie is that you don’t rely on a lot of jumpscares. But, it’s still very, very much a scary movie.
Corinna: I think it’s a rhythm thing. For me, if everything’s always building up to a jump scare, it stops working for me. I feel the formula and I’m not really scared. If you don’t really know when things are going to happen, and you know that the story isn’t dependent on it happening, I think that’s a lot more unnerving, because you can’t predict the flow. And I am just a massive fan of slow burn atmospheric horror, where you’re bringing all your other senses to it. And that’s just what I really loved watching, I think jumpscares are kind of fun and they’re tension breakers and they’re powerful, but if there’s too many then they’re kind of shooting themselves in the foot.
You mentioned that you like to watch slow burn movies, did you use any for inspiration, either in writing or in your direction?
Corinna: One of the big influences is a 1960s ghost story called The Innocents, which is a British film by Jack Clayton. It’s a retelling of The Turn of the Screw. That was a big touchstone. It’s very dependent on atmosphere and psychology. And then the other, it’s a weird reference, but the other one that we looked at a lot was a tale of 3 Women, which is not a horror film but it has a very strange atmosphere, and it has a lot of focus on the production design and the color palette. So those were our two big touchstones.
What would you say was your favorite part about creating this movie?
Corinna: My favorite part was it becoming a collaboration rather than me, on my own, in a room for four years, writing it. Just having it come alive and the other people. Our actors and the amazing crew I was gifted with as a first time feature maker were just so warm and dedicated. That was so fun and so uplifting to get it out of my head and start sharing it with a group of people and see what they did with it.
And what would you say is the most challenging part about doing all of this?
Corinna: I think it was probably just the time pressure of the shoot and feeling that we were just being so compromised and just trying to be brave about that. But then the idea, it’s a whole other journey and you get to make a different film, and look at it in a different way and in the end it was fine. It was just the hardest thing at the time.