Powder offers up another of the strangers with incredible powers that regularly come to deliver object lessons in these films. The film seems as though it were a product from the 19th Century when electricity was first discovered and demonstrated to be capable of making dead frogs twitch, where it was thought to be the source of the lifeforce and all manner of bizarre cures and quackery involving it sprouted up. The film is frankly bizarre in the way it latches onto electricity as the energizing force that drives all life. Powder earnestly celebrates a pantheism preaching that all lifeforms are connected, that animals feel pain, people feel pain too and that all that people need is the simple healing effect of the realization of the connectedness of all things. The film reaches a bizarre ending where the title character is zapped by a lightning bolt and rather than mourning the tragedy of such, the film waxes reverential as we understand that energy never dies and he has gone on to become part of the rest of the universe.
There is an earnest sincerity to this, if an ever-so-slightly loopiness that puts Powder down around the level of New Age crystal healing and rebirthing mummery. It is conducted in overly reverential tones. Jeff Goldblum is on hand seemingly to offer cod explanations and cliche quotes Our technology has surpassed our humanity every few minutes. The score and photography try to make everything into the achingly monumental but most of the time end up underscoring the banality of it.
The effect that Powder has mostly lies in its performances. Sean Patrick Flanery, previously the teenage Harrison Ford in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1992-4), gives a fine performance of intense alienation. He communicates loneliness and suffering with enormous physicality, his long thin frame almost entirely bent over on itself. The supporting cast are good too Lance Henriksens leather-beaten roughness is well-suited to the Southern sheriff part and Jeff Goldblum gives another of his appealingly hyped performances. Also good is Missy Crider, a muchly underrated actress who is surely deservous some day soon of a good vehicle that can allow her to show off what she can do.
As a footnote, Powder had a campaign launched against it by various groups who tried to have it banned when it was found that director Victor Salva had once been convicted of sexually molesting a 12-year-old boy. While one does not want to justify Salvas actions, it seemed an hysterical overreaction, of people to try punish someone who had served their time and prevent them from getting on with being a productive, honest citizen again. The controversy surrounding him aside, Victor Salva is a highly promising genre talent. He previously made the excellent slasher film Clownhouse (1989) and went onto make the fine psycho-thriller The Nature of the Beast (1995) and the interesting supernatural pursuit film Jeepers Creepers (2001) and its even better sequel Jeepers Creepers II (2003), the stalker film Rosewood Lane (2011) and the deviltry film Dark House (2014). Salva later returned to the mystical positive thinking inspirational drama with the non-genre Peaceful Warrior (2006).
(Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Mary Steenburgen) at this sites Best of 1995 Awards).
Clip from the film here:-
Full film available online here:-