Monday, June 25, 2012

The First Power (1990)

**1/2 (out of four stars)

I don't recall the first time I saw this film.  I can guess it was probably when it was first released, back when I was a very young kid, rummaging through the horror section at our local video store.  As a child, I remember being genuinely creeped out by this film.  I remember watching Geraldo Rivera and other shows featuring Satanic cults and things like that.  Back then our society was paranoid by
underground satanic groups. It seemed to be every where you looked while channel surfing. 

The streets of LA are being terrorized by a serial killer.  The killer is dubbed "The Pentagram Killer" because he murders his victims ritualistically, carving pentagrams in the skin of his victims.  Lou Diamond Phillips plays Detective Russ Logan.  He's on the case and hunts down the serial killer.  Once apprehended the killer is quickly tried and convicted - his sentence is the gas chamber.  Which is exactly what Patrick Channing (Jeff Kober) wants.

We're also introduced to a professional psychic, Tess Seaton (Tracy Griffith).  After Channing's death he has the power to jump from body to body.  That would be called, the second power.  Channing wishes to possess the first power - the power of immortality.  Tess helps Detective Logan along the way, as they try to defeat an unknown force that was once Patrick Channing.

Writer/Director Robert Resnikoff doesn't have much of a resume.  He's credited with another film called The Jogger which I've never seen nor have I heard of.  For only two films under his belt, I'd like to think that The First Power is his claim to fame.  He does a good job with the look of the film - a look that you can only relate to early 90's horror.  There are some pretty intense action sequences involving some car chases and a character jumping from a high rise only to land on his feet and run away.  Today filmmakers would take the easy approach and use the green screen, but back in the day, this must've been a great credit to the stunt team and an equally talented film crew.

The acting isn't something to write home about but Lou Diamond Phillips does a fine job as a cop struggling to battle with the forces of evil.  Jeff Kober chews up the scenery though.  The scenes where he's involved are some of the best throughout the film.  I've always found him quite effective in this film.  He resonates a creepiness that helps move the story along. When ever he's on screen, he commands my full attention. His face is distinct, and I'm quite sure that he was born for roles like this.

Richard Ramirez pops into my mind as I watch this film.  He was the Night Stalker of LA in the mid eighties.  His reign of terror had the entire state of California at bay for many years.  Families locked their windows and doors at night, because if you didn't, it could be a fatal mistake.  He was also heavily into Satanism and the occult.  Ramirez awaits execution by the state of California.  His wife, Doreen Lioy says she'll commit suicide when he dies.

The First Power has garnished much negative criticism since it's initial release.  Even today it stands at a meager 13% on Rotten Tomatoes.  I'm not sure all of the negative feedback is fair, because this film does a good job at setting you up, mowing through story, and giving you a suitable finish all while being enjoyable.

Starring:  Lou Diamond Phillips, Tracy Griffith, Jeff Kober

Written and directed by:  Robert Resnikoff

98 min


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