Like many a B-Movie aficionado, I tend to have a hard time resisting a premise that is the right kind of sleazy. And you can't get much more correctly sleazy than a film about a sexy nurse who seduces and murders unfaithful men--in 3D!
So when I heard about the film last year, I had to go see it--even with my usual aversion with paying to see 3D films in the theater.
Now, you might notice I didn't rush to gush all over it on here. That's true of many films I loved, as well, but that's just because I feel my readers deserve a detailed review and it can be hard to give one to a movie you watched once in a theater. (My first review being a notable exception)
Still, in this case I certainly would have much to discuss. However, like many things it fell by the wayside.
And then, in July, I saw that the film's titular nurse, Paz De La Huerta, was suing the film's director. Why, you ask? Because Nurse 3D had ruined her career. Now, it wasn't just her claim that the film was so awful that it ruined her career--as entertaining as that would be--but rather, that the director was negligent and she suffered a serious injury because of it. Of course, that sounds perfectly reasonable until you see she also claimed he dubbed her voice with a worse actress and her lawsuit demands that he redub the film with her actual voice.
Ironically, this means that her lawsuit is a lot like the film: it can't quite decide how serious it wants to be.
In true exploitation tradition, the film opens with a title card telling us, "During the last 30 years the F.B.I. has documented that more murders have occurred within the healthcare profession than any other profession. It has also produced the greatest number of known serial killers."
It's entirely possible that, unlike the habits of the anaconda, this graphic might actually be true.
We are quickly introduced to our titular nurse, Abigail Russell (Paz de la Huerta--and not Paz Vega, which is a mistake, myself included, are wont to make), as she applies lipstick in the bathroom of a club. Not only are we watching Abby in her indescribable dress--which is see-through lace in the back, with no underwear, and in the front looks like something from Stirba's wardrobe in Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf--we're also hearing her because she narrates this film.
Abby's on the hunt for the most dangerous game, you might say. She seeks out married men who habitually cheat on their wives and attempts to seduce them. She always gives them an opportunity to walk away, you see, but if they don't? Well, they end up like the creep who hits on her tonight. She takes him up to the rooftop, gets him hot and bothered by pretending to be offering fellatio, but then slashes his femoral artery with a scalpel. After lecturing him a bit about how much better off his wife and children will be without him, she throws him off the roof so he can get impaled on a metal fence post--in 3-D!
In one of the more clever touches of the film, the credits play over mock pulp covers and pin up art of the main characters. Midway through, though, it switches to montage narrated by Abby that explaisn what her day job is like.
In a really weird, unnecessary CGI effect that reminds me of something from the Resident Evil movies, when Abby explains that she works at All Saints Hospital we see the hospital logo fly onto the screen like we just came back from commercial. We also see that Abby is the nurse of the month, as she snidely comments that the men at her hospital are very likely to try and get sexual with their patients. You'll note at this point that all the nurses in the film dress like the uniform store went out of business and they were forced to go to the Halloween store and get sexy nurse costumes instead. I doubt that any nurse anywhere in 2013 still dresses like this, and this is not a period piece.
|"Damn it, Cindy, stop whistling 'The Twisted Nerve.' We've been through this."
Cut to an induction ceremony for the class of nurses Danni belongs to, as they join the nurses corps. The ceremony is presided over by Dr. Robert Morris (Judd Nelson!), but he steps aside after introducing Head Nurse Betty Watson (Kathleen Turner!). Danni smiles nervously at Abby, watching from the crowd, and then at her boyfriend in the front row, Steve (Corbin Bleu--yes, the High School Musical guy). Later, at the after party Danni gets a congratulatory hug from her mom (Linda Papadopoulos) and gives the cold shoulder to her step-dad, Dr. Larry Cook (Martin Donovan!). Abby slinks over for a quick hug and is introduced to Danni's mom, Larry (whom she makes a big show of having heard about already), and then Steve. Abby's face falls at his introduction, but she covers it fairly well.
I think. Look, Paz de la Huerta can claim that the director dubbed her with a bad actress to make her performance worse all she wants--the simple fact is that she does not turn in a good performance in this film. I mean, it sort of works because Abby is supposed to be rather off-putting, but it's still some terrible acting.
Steve is a paramedic who drives ambulances for the hospital, which Abby views with disdain. And in a pointless jump scare scene, Steve surprises her in some kind of supply room so they can have sex. (And if you have ever wanted to see Corbin Bleu's ass, this is the movie for you) Unfortunately, he mentions moving in together and she balks at that because it's too big a commitment right now because of all the shit going on in her life like the new job and her mom's husband being an asshole. That kills the mood even before nurse Regina (Niecy Nash!) walks in on them and cracks jokes about taking a turn with Steve next before leaving them in peace.
Danni's night is about to get worse because she comes downstairs to respond to victims of a car accident being brought in and freezes at the sight of the wounded bodies. Morris yells at her to, "Get in the game," which is made inadvertantly hilarious by the virtue of Corbin Bleu being in this film. Abby talks about this being Danni losing her virginity and that she had to learn eventually that being a nurse is more than "sticking thermometers in butts and looking pretty." Yet, when she shortly afterward watches Morris take the time to yell at Danni that she shouldn't be there if she can't do the job, she frames this lecture as a part of the sexual kicks Morris gets with the new nurses.
Sure, why not?
Danni then takes a crying 3-D shower!,..in her panties. Look, directors, if your movie calls for a shower scene and your actress for the scene doesn't do nudity, maybe you should frame the shot so we wouldn't see anything anyway. Abby is upset that Danni calls her boyfriend for comfort instead of her, but still walks into the locker room to strip down into her white undies and garter, before stripping down to her panties and telling Danni that she shouldn't let it worry her and they'll go get drinks after she showers, However, on the way they see Larry getting into a car with another woman, which confirms Danni's suspicions that he's cheating on her mother. His reaction when confronted is to tell her she's out of line and drive off, which doesn't exactly convince her she's wrong.
At the club, Abby gets Danni good and drunk. They dance--and then we see a residue at the bottom of Danni's glass. Yep, Abby drugged her. There are lots of selfies taken by Abby as they end up making out and then another guy joins them. (A heads up for anyone who suffers from epilepsy, this sequence goes way overboard on the flashing lights) Based on the rest of the photos we see, the guy goes home with them and has sex with Danni. Poor Danni wakes up the next morning in a strange man's shirt, in bed next to a naked Abby.
|Betty and Veronica finally realize they never actually wanted Archie.
Despite Abby's pleas for Danni to call in sick and spend the day with her, as well as assurances that Abby texted Steve pretending to be her, don't go over any better. Abby's decision not to put on any damn pants can't help matters. Danni finally borrows a dress from Abby, who stares longingly at her as she gets dressed, and then asks Abby if they can pretend last night never happened. Well, they could if A) Abby wasn't a psychopath and B) if only Abby hadn't taken a shitload of incriminating photos.
On her way out the door later, Abby is greeted by her enthusiastic puppy dog of a neighbor, Jared (Adam Herschman). When he asks why he never sees her, she quips, "My schedule's been murder." He worries about her because he sees dead people all day--since he transports cadavers for the anatomy lab. Oh, and Abby isn't going to work. She's going to an appointment with a psychiatrist--one Dr. Larry Cook. She's sizing him up as a victim, as well as dealing with "some of my own shit," but her story is that she's a sex addict. This triggers a brief flashback to visiting her father at his doctor's office when she was eight, the point of which we don't see yet. The upshot is that she has definitely intrigued Larry and he gives her his cell number in case she needs him.
Danni, meanwhile, has gotten flowers from Steve when she gets in to work. Abby saw this and is clearly fuming, and she also can't help noticing Morris shamelessly smack Danni on the ass a little later. (Something Danni basically does ignore) While Danni is signing out 6 cc's of vecuronium, Morris sexually harasses her even more blatantly. She, again, ignores this. I suppose she doesn't want to make waves, but yikes.
Watching Danni take another underwear shower, Abby reflects on how the sex acts they engaged in the night before and angrily smashes the flower vase. She passes it off as an accident when Danni comes back to her locker, then asks about why Steve sent them. When Danni explains about the moving in argument, Abby tries to turn her against Steve--but Danni mentions that he's been there for her even when her father died after a drunk driver crashed into his car. Abby can relate to this. See, she lost her father when she was eight years old...
Abby gives Danni an extra key to her apartment in case she ever needs it. Danni explains that the reason she's reluctant to move out is because she can't bear the thought of leaving her mom alone with Larry. Well, Abby thinks she has the solution to that problem. She ambushes Larry as he's leaving his parking garage and convinces him to drive her to a back alley where they can get hot and heavy. She ties his hands to the gearshift with her ribbon--and then injects him with 4 cc's of vecuronium. It paralyzes him and she then rolls his car out into an intersection, where a garbage truck hits him and kills him.
Very conspicuously Abby removes her ribbon and jacket from his car as the crowd nearby calls the cops, and she then orders Italian takeout. She comes home, stopping briefly to assure Jared she's not a robber, to find a crying Danni in her apartment. Danni is grieving for Larry, contrary to Abby's expectations--and worse, she's thinking of moving in with Steve. This sets Abby the fuck off. She tells a confused Danni that nobody will ever understand her like Abby does. And then she makes a comment about Larry going through the windshield--and Danni never told her that Larry died in a car crash.
Well, Danni seems to kind of let that suspicion slide a bit until the funeral. She sees Abby talking to a man who introduces himself to Danni and Steve as Detective John Rogan (Boris Kodjoe!). He needs to talk to Danni about the circumstances of her stepfather's death, and before he gives her his card he mentions that he is talking to the last people to see Larry the day he died. Danni confrotns Abby about talking to Rogan, and Abby casually mentions being a patient of Larry's before sashaying away. She intends to leave it at that and get back to her "work", but she mentions an unforeseen complication on the horizon.
And let me take a quick moment to observe how much better this film would be if it dropped the "serial killer who targets unfaithful married men" angle and instead made the story about Abby becoming obsessed with Danni and trying to destroy anyone she sees as a threat to their relationship. The two plots simply do not mesh very well. Oh, and that voice over narration is not really as clever an idea as the filmmakers thought.
Well, it turns out that the wrench in the works is the new HR director, Rachel Adams (Melanie Scrofano). As Rachel goes about annoying Regina by putting smiley face stickers on anyone and everyone, Danni gets an email that oddly immediately opens all its attachments to show her the incriminating photos that Abby took. Rachel gets Regina to direct her to Abby, whom she gleefully introduces herself to and puts a sticker on her--and Rachel recognizes Abby from somewhere, but can't place her. Danni walks by in time to hear that Rachel remembers who Abby looks like: her old neighbor, Sarah Price, who was put in the Sunnyview Institute as a little girl. Rachel last saw her years ago, having grown up and sold her mother's house after her mother's death.
Given Abby's significant reaction, I'm going to bet that Rachel isn't as mistaken as she thinks. That evening Rachel gets a false scare when she walks past Morris' office and the nurse he's having sex with suddenly flings her naked breasts against the frosted glass. Now, uh, I would think the director of HR might react to this kind of fraternization with something other than laughing it off when she immediately runs into Abby, but instead she takes Abby up on an invitation for drinks.
Abby calls Danni to invite her to drinks, which is really an excuse to taunt her with how she's obviously watching her as she drives some stuff over to Steve's. Once there, Danni just barely intercepts an email to Steve with all those incriminating pictures. Steve thinks there's something odd about her behavior and what seems like a sudden obsession with Abby--after she brings up the fact that Abby was a patient of Larry's--but he gets called in for duty. Danni is then woken up by a Skype call from Abby.
Well, it's from Abby, but Rachel is the one on the video. She's drunk and clearly at Abby's, which Danny doesn't seem overly alarmed about even as Abby starts licking and biting Rachel's ear like she's trying to seduce her. However, the empty syringe that Abby looms toward the oblivious Rachel with sure freaks her out. The call ends, so Danni calls 911 to send a unit to Abby's apartment. A second Skype call has Abby taunting Rachel with the apparent dead body of Rachel, whom she comments won't be at work tomorrow.
However, at the police station the next day, things turn bad for Danni. Abby has convinced Rogan that Danni has an obsession with her, and it turns out that Rachel (who was clearly introduced as "Adams" but here is called "Owens") is fine. When Steve arrives, things get worse. He gets to see the incriminating photos that Abby provided as evidence of Danni's obsession. Danni counters she ran a drug test on herself and discovered she had rufilin in her system that Abby must have drugged her with. Now, I find Rogan's incredulous response of asking if she can prove that to be ridiculous, because it sounds like he means the "had rufilin in her system" part. I should think the drug test would prove that, but I'm curious why she didn't ever mention it.
Oh, and the toxicology report on Larry showed he had vecuronium in his system. Remember what drug Danni checked out at work the same day he died? Steve buys the story Abby gave and storms away, refusing to listen to Danni. In desperation, Danni goes to Morris, but Abby sees them talking. Rachel, still on that hunch, looks up Sarah Price--only to be attacked by Abby in her office. The damage is done, though, because Danni remembered hearing about the Sunnyview Institue and goes there to get answers.
Sarah Price was institutionalized there when she was 8, because she and her mother walked in on her father having sex with his nurse. Hilariously, the flashback we see of this is all sepia tone and Vaseline lens--except for the shots of her father having sex with the nurse and reacting to his family walking in, which are totally unaltered. Consistency! At any rate, daddy got violent with mommy and little Sarah calmly slit his fucking throat with a scalpel.
Danni notices a few things. First, Sarah always carried around a little nurse doll with her, one that Danni has definitely seen in Abby's possession. Second, Sarah became attached to a nurse, who became like a mother to her and even took her in once she was released, since her real mother had committed suicide--a nurse named Janet Abigail Russell.
Speak of the devil, Abby goes to meet with Morris. He mentions Danni's complaints against Abby, but then offers her the chance to...show herself in a different light. Abby happily agrees and leads him to meet her down in the morgue to "discuss" it further. By which she means chloroforming him and strapping him to a table with a gag in his mouth, before stripping down to just her bra before threatening him with various implements. (And oddly this is one of the few tongue in cheek sequences that I felt truly worked)
|"Look, when you said you were into kinky stuff, this is not what I had in mind!"
Danni, speeding home from Sunnyview, calls Regina so she can look up Rachel's cell phone and connect her. Unfortunately, it turns out Rachel's cell phone is in the trunk of Danni's car--and it's bloody. She calls Abby, who breaks away from sex with Rogan to answer the call. Surely, Danni can't expect Abby to be blamed for whatever happened to Rachel when the dead woman's phone was in her car, surely? At any rate, Steve's working tonight and Abby thinks it's time she paid him a visit.
Desperately, Danni leaves a message for Rogan about Abby's true identity as Sarah Price. Rogan actually decides to listen to her request to look up Sarah Price. She rushes to the hospital and confronts Abby--whom we earlier saw stalking Steve--when the two start getting physical, Regina intervenes. Poor Regina gets an elbow to the face for her trouble and knocked cold. Danni and Abby get into a full on fight and end up smashing their way through a lab. Abby takes time to tell a security guard that Danni attacked her before killing him with a defibrillator. They end up wrestling their way into an operating room, and the cop that shows up to grab Danni ends up getting scissors through his neck. Danni, calling Abby "Sarah", tells her she can help her. Abby is having none of it and tries to attack her with the scissors, only to be tackled over the operating table by another cop.
The unfortunate bastard on the table ends up dead in the process, and the cop gets a pair of scissors buried in his eye.
|"Which is better: One? Or GAAAUUUGHH!"
Again we're back to "the serial killer plot doesn't fit."
Danni and Steve both fall for the "killer covers herself in blood and pretends to be a victim" trick, resulting in a bloody kiss for Danni and a pair of scissors to the neck for Steve. And the Abby escapes from the hospital, somehow. You'd think a bloody woman in her underwear would attract more notice.
Back at her apartment, a now-clean Abby attempts to gather her things and leave but Rogan finds her as she is walking through the alley. He attempts to arrest her, but she sees Jared and manages to make the sap think Rogan is a mugger. Jared kills Rogan with a baseball bat to the skull. Seeing Rogan's badge sends Jared into a panic, but Abby convinces him to dispose of the body for his own protection. I mean, you know what they do to cop killers, right? Her voiceover then says she thinks everything worked out well in the end, ignoring the people she murdered who were innocent even by her standards.
Oh, and the film ends with her having assumed Rachel's identity at a new hospital (and, once again, she's said to be "Rachel Owens" because the script girl on this movie apparently hated somebody). So we end with her cheerfully giving a woman a smiley face sticker. And Paz de La Huerta just utterly fails to sell an impression of Melanie Scrofano. The End.
|"I said redub the movie!"
Like a lot of movies, the opinion I had when I first saw it versus when I'm reviewing it now has changed dramatically. As I alluded to at he start of the review, I really liked (though didn't exactly love) this movie upon first seeing it. A second viewing, robbed of the 3D gimmick--which is always hit or miss with me anyway--began to show issues that I have with the movie now. Watching it a third time for this review, well, my opinion has positively plummeted.
The trouble with Nurse 3D, ultimately, it is seems to have no idea what it wants to be. Is it a sleazy exploitation pulp thriller with tongue planted firmly in cheek? Is it a parody of same? Is it a dark comedy? Is it a horror movie? Is it a wacky comedy about a serial killer nurse?
This is most certainly not a case like the far superior Black Dynamite, where the film nails everything perfectly and then goes too far into silliness for the final act. (Yes, I still love that film from beginning to end, but let's be honest--it goes from pitch-perfect affectionate parody to excessive silliness after the heroes go to Kung Fu Island) Hell, this is not even a case like Piranha 3D or even Piranha 3DD, where it knew the tone it was going for but simply chose one that wasn't any damn good. No, this film clearly has no idea what it's trying to be from practically frame one.
As I stated earlier, part of the reason is that this film wants to be a serial killer movie from the perspective of the killer while also a "I had an affair with the wrong person" story. Now, I admit I have not yet seen Fatal Attraction or Single White Female or even The Roommate, but from what I unerstand those movies are told mostly from the viewpoint of the person who winds up on a pycho's radar. I mean, it would be sort of silly to tell it from the other perspective, right?
Well, if you noticed from my synopsis, this movie is also told from the perspective of the victim. Except it's also not, because Abby constantly intrudes with voiceovers that, frankly, are often unnecessary and not nearly as clever as the movie thinks. It doesn't gel because we're supposedly watching Abby's story, but it's really Danni's. You can pick one or the other, but trying to do both just makes it all messy. Plus, again, the serial killer angle does not feel like it fits the film. Nothing Abby does after the opening has a direct relation to her preying on adulterers, because the people she kills prior to the climax are all endangering her "relationship" wth Danni--and the climax doesn't make sense because she's just killing at random, which isn't her style. It would fit a psycho obsession story, with her just lashing out at the world, but it does not fit the serial killer MO they've attempted to establish.
While all of the actors aside from Paz de La Huerta, whom we'll address separately, turn in great performances, most of them feel like they they've been dropped in from totally different movies. Niecy Nash, Adam Herschman, and Melanie Scrofano feel like they wandered in from comedies. Not in a "comic relief" sense, either, but like they didn't know what kind of movie they were in. Katrina Bowden, Judd Nelson, Boris Kodjoe, and Corbin Bleu actually all feel like they're in the right place--except that the movie doesn't know what that place is.
And then we come to Paz de La Huerta. Now, it is possible that she is right and in a fit of pique the director dubbed her over with another actress and presumably also had said actress do the voiceovers. that does not explain why de La Huerta's performance is so obviously awful on its own. Nothing she does in the film feels natural. She can't even walk like a normal human being: one scene in slow-motion looks like the disguised Martian played by Lisa Marie in Mars Attacks! with the way her body moves. She is wooden in most scenes, way over-enunciating in others, and every so often almost approaches a human emotion.
And I can't decide if she's the best part of the movie or not.
Abby Russell, after all, is a psychopath. She seems weirdly charming and likable, based on the perfomances of others around her--and yet is inhuman and robotic. In a way, the performance is kind of brilliant in its awfulness. I can't imagine Paz de La Huerta ever passing for a normal human being if this is how she normally acts, but she makes a pretty good psycho.
All in all, I can't recommend Nurse 3D but I can't say it should be avoided, either. It has its entertaining moments, but overall its inability to decide what the hell it wants to be makes it too disjointed to truly enjoy as a whole. I found it entertaining the first time I saw it, but it defintely cannot withstand multiple viewings.
So unless you just love seeing a bad actress trying to avoid wearing pants as much as possible, I prescribe giving this one a skip.
Today's review brought to you by the letter N! Hit the banner above to see what the other Celluloid Zeroes chose for N!