May 07, 1990 12:00 PM

Lou Diamond Phillips

This supernatural thriller shares a blood type—copious—with last year’s wretched and very similar Shocker. To praise it with faint damns, however, The First Power is considerably less obnoxious—not quite so gratuitously gory nor obscene.

Phillips plays a homicide detective tracking a serial killer in Los Angeles. He is not too convincing, but he does have a boyish appeal, and Tracy Griffith makes all she can of her role as a psychic who helps Phillips track the killer. (Griffith was “Babe” in The Good Mother and appeared with half-sister Melanie in Fear City.) Elizabeth (Critical Condition) Aden has some nice moments too as a nun who ends up being one of the possessees, once the killer has been executed and comes back from the dead.

Yep, he’s another one of those guys. Unlike the schmuck in Shocker, however, this killer has a mission. Or at least Satan has granted him lots of strange powers in the interests of spreading bad will.

Phillips and Griffith do much racing around, during which they get involved in a nicely staged chase through a torrent-filled aqueduct that looks as if it would make a great ride at one of those aquatic action parks. It’s not clear how they survive all the fights, since none of their weapons work against the killer. Then, too, the killer can disappear at will, has superhuman strength, and it looks as if his breath might be fearsome too.

Anyway, writer-director Robert Resnikoff, making his feature directorial debut, pulls this all off with a fairly light touch. At one point Phillips tells Griffith, “I thought I told you to stay in the car,” without letting on that he’s sending up a joke as old as Milton Berle.

The final clash leads, of course, to an equivocal ending that gives the sequel possibility its due. This probably wouldn’t be such a swift idea, although the title possibilities might inspire mathematicians: The Square Root of the First Power; The First Power2; The Null Set and Its Relationship to the Number of Worthwhile Modern American Horror Movies. (R)

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