JANUARY 30, 2014
GENRE: HERO KILLER
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (PRESS SCREENING)
If Paz de la Huerta had even a smidgeon of acting ability (or used it if she has; I've never seen her in anything else), Nurse 3D probably wouldn't work at all. It's basically a mix of American Mary and Single White Female, with the title character going around killing every man in the vicinity like the former and becoming dangerously obsessed with a female pal like the latter. On paper, that sounds like a recipe for a perfectly rote slasher/thriller that you'd forget about within moments of the film's conclusion, but since even merely saying a character's name proves to be an insurmountable task for Paz, it takes on this bizarre, nearly alien tone that, intentionally or not, turns the film into a trashy comic delight.
Again, I've never seen her in anything, so maybe it's just an unusual acting choice, akin to Nicolas Cage deciding to play a character with a heavy Southern drawl or something for no real reason. As we eventually learn (thanks to a hilariously on-the-nose exposition dump courtesy of Michael Eklund), her character killed her dad as a young girl and was raised in an institution, so she clearly has a reason to be "off" - she's never really had normal interactions, we can assume. However, none of the other characters in the movie seem to notice how incredibly awkward she is when making simple conversation; for the male characters (all of whom are constantly horny) I guess you can just assume they don't care because they want to have sex with her, but why do the other females, particularly Katrina Bowden, carry on as if there's no reason to suspect that this robotic woman has a few screws loose? So I have to assume that her clunky deliveries and jaw-droppingly insane moments of "rage" are the result of a bad actress inadvertently making a film funnier than it was meant to be, and that her co-stars merely did their best to ignore it.
Luckily, it seems director Douglas Aarniokoski WANTED to make a funny movie and lucked out with the casting. You don't do a slasher film in 3D unless you're looking to provide an audience with silly thrills, which is why when a guy gets tossed off a roof he can't just land on the ground or on a parked car - he has to land on an iron fence so we can see the spike burst through his chest and splatter CGI blood in our faces. But if Nurse Abby was played normally, the movie would be actually kind of dull. Surprisingly, there aren't a lot of comin at ya gags after that until the film's ridiculous climax, which finds Paz and Katrina tossing each other around various rooms at the hospital as the former makes a very bloody attempt at escaping capture for her crimes. In fact, if you can't find this playing in a theater near you (likely), you're OK "settling" for the (2D) VOD option, because apart from those occasional gags, it's a very flat 3D film (surprising, since it was shot with 3D cameras, not a conversion). Most of the movie takes place in small rooms inside the hospital or someone's apartment; the few exteriors are just alleys and the like (presumably to hide the fact that the New York-set film was shot in Canada), so there's not much depth to the shots - you can take the glasses off and not even notice a difference in several scenes.
Naturally, the warm-blooded males (and some females) are probably wondering if there are "other" benefits to the extra dimension, given the risque artwork and sex-driven narrative (Abby zeroes in on cheating male characters), but in this department it's actually tamer than I was expecting. Paz is naked more than once, but only has one true (brief) sex scene, and Bowden doesn't show off much either (butt in a long shot), so ultimately it's no more explicit than your average 90s "erotic thriller" (even when she cuts a guy's junk, we don't see anything - wimps). The sleazier elements mostly come from Paz's occasional voiceover - said butt shot is accompanied by Abby explaining that she's looking at "the same ass she was eating the night before", and you can laugh just as hard as that in 2D. The movie definitely earns its R rating, but it doesn't seem like they were aiming for anything more explicit.
As a narrative, eh, it's fine. There are some baffling choices (has anyone involved with the production ever used email before? Because that's not how it works) and a few dropped subplots (Nelson seems to have designs on Bowden, but nothing comes of it), but it's got a nice, fast-ish pace that keeps us from asking too many questions while we're watching. Plus, it's only like 85 minutes and Bowden catches on at the halfway point, sparing us too much time where we're way ahead of the film's sympathetic hero, but it still kind of follows the "____ From Hell" template rather closely - a 3rd party catches on to the secret past and is dispatched, our hero is framed for some of the psycho's crimes, etc. It may be short, but it's still copying the beats we've seen a million times, so if you're not on board with the movie's gonzo sense of humor (the "sassy black nurse" character is constantly dialed to 11, and it actually works), or find Paz's non-performance too much (little?) to deal with, there isn't a hell of a lot left to recommend here. One could enjoy the (too) brief turns by Judd Nelson and Martin Donovan as a couple of sleazy jerks (Nelson is the head doctor; Donovan is Danni's stepfather), but otherwise this is strictly a love it or hate it affair; I can't really see any possibility of a middle ground.
And that's a bummer, because I suspect watching alone on VOD will result in a lot of "hate it" reactions. It's a crowd movie that will rarely get the benefit of one, and it's possible that the big screen and 3D presentation, while unnecessary in the technical sense, added immensely to my enjoyment. There were only like 8 other people at the screening, but they were all laughing as often as I was, and post-screening tweets were all positive (but again, of the "so bad it's good" variety). That sort of thing doesn't quite work at home - I encourage you invite a few friends over if you can't find a theater nearby. And it's finally a win for Aarniokoski, who made the woeful-even-by-Highlander-standards Endgame and also the abysmal Animals (under a different name), which nearly scared me out of getting up early enough to drive to Santa Monica for the screening this morning. If he can channel this sort of attitude and energy into something meatier next time around, I'll forgive him for good!
What say you?