Movies For Breakfast IF I CAN’T HAVE LOVE, I WANT POWER Review

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Alternative pop singer Halsey tackles abuse, pregnancy, childbirth and alienation in this unsettling, sexy horror short.

Synopsis

A woman experiences the joys and horrors of pregnancy and childbirth.

Review
On the cusp of releasing her latest Nine Inch Nails-produced album “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power,” alternative pop songstress Halsey released a short horror film inspired by the upcoming work. In the Victorian era-set film (directed by Collin Tilley and written by Halsey), we are introduced to a Queen played by Halsey whose abusive husband has just fallen to his death. In light of this passing (which she may or may not be responsible for), she is given death stares by everyone ranging from the bereaved mother-in-law to the disgusted high officials. On top of this alienation, the Queen is also pregnant with child who could end up a King, if a boy, or possibly “disposed of”, if a girl.

Stuck despair where’s she’s neither welcome or loved (hence, the title), the Queen embarks on a journey of debauchery and dark magic. She is dismissed as a commoner and as a “whore” not fit to wear the crown, her banishment or execution being a question in the air until she gives birth. Throughout all this, there is a dark alter ego the Queen periodically sees in the mirror or senses lurking in the shadows, waiting to pierce our protagonist’s soul. This eventually gives way to the childbirth climax (with guest star Sasha Lane as an enigmatic, blind witch) – easily one of the most unsettling moments in a short film that is full of them.

“If I Can’t Have Love” is a controversial and intriguing piece of art. There is little dialogue and the film is all atmosphere, mood and great music. Halsey gives her all – spiritually, musically and physically – there are a few scenes of full-frontal nudity and Halsey makes good use of the camera, having her emotional face take up the whole screen in some scenes (with emotions ranging from anguish to mischievous to terrified – a feat to witness in IMAX). Not afraid to be different, controversial or to just exist on its own wavelength, this work is reflective of the artist that centers it. For all of its provocative and disturbing nature, “If I Can’t Have Love” stands as a work of art. It may be art for a niche audience (specifically, fans of Halsey and NIN production) but it still counts as art.

For it’s ranking in entertainment value, “If I Can’t Have Love” works better as a short film rather than a music video. Director Colin Tilley creates a great atmosphere of gothic horror – well-done production design coupled with dark images and solid jump-scares. Halsey’s new music – the sole inspiration and purpose for this work – serves as a fitting soundtrack to all of this film’s dread and madness. The album itself is very much a theatrical piece. Halsey’s dark-poppy vocals mixed with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s production create a mood that is as unique to this film as it would feel alien to any other. This coupling feels like the rare moment where a work is inspired by another and vice-versa, the film cannot exist without the music, the music cannot be heard without visualizing the film.


Closing Thoughts
“If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power” is an intriguing, dark piece of art that is intended for a niche audience. All are welcome, however, it is not meant for everybody. Director Colin Tilley makes good use of Halsey’s bare-bones script and elevates this work past being just an overlong music video. The sounds of Halsey’s newest music paired with the visuals of Victorian gothic horror makes for an illuminating IMAX experience. While “If I Can’t Have Love” may not reach the same influential level as Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” or Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”, there is artistic value to its power and it is one of the more interesting films I’ve seen this year. If I am unable to see a full-length film that is strong engaging entertainment, I would much rather take an intriguing, dark Halsey film instead.


Trailer