★ / ★★★★
Abby Russell (Paz de la Huerta) is a nurse on a mission: using her body to lure unsuspecting married men and then killing them in gruesome ways. She likens men who cheat as diseased cells—up to no good and must be eliminated as soon as possible.
“Nurse,” written by Douglas Aarniokoski and David Loughery, is an exploitation flick down to its marrow and there is nothing with that. The problem is its lack consistent fun. Most frustrating is an unnecessary subplot about Abby wanting to be a friend—perhaps something more—to a new nurse named Danni (Katrina Bowden) which stems into another secondary subplot about her relationship issues. What a bore. We wait for a considerable amount of time for the next scene where blood enters the equation after the crazed nurse utters a well-delivered speech about the repercussions of infidelity.
de la Huerta oozes sex in every frame and it is a joy to watch her camp it up. Although the plot is a slog, I relished watching her slithery approach to the character. She reminded me of Jennifer Tilly in that both women are not conventionally beautiful but they know how to harness a performance in such a way that just about every line delivery is seductive, dirty, theatrical, and amusing. Despite the fact that Abby is a serial killer, de la Huerta’s performance is so good that one may consider her to be the heroine.
This is a problem because Danni is supposed to be the victim. Although Bowden plays her character as expected, the would-be protagonist is not written as someone we should be rooting for. She is so bland that when the inevitable clash between the two women arrives, I found myself wishing that the new nurse would get killed just so the story would have a chance to focus on how Abby thought and reasoned through her actions.
Still, when the picture does focus on her character, however, we get a standard daddy-issue explanation. To add insult to injury, these are shown in flashbacks. We expect that from a light year away. The movie is a proud exploitation film so why not take a risk and challenge us a little bit? My second hypothesis was that perhaps Abby was raped by a married man when she was only a child. That probably would have been more interesting—although not by much.
The film is nicely photographed. Some of the more violent scenes can make one squirm because the images that matter most are consistently front and center, sharp, and bright. It is almost as if the filmmakers were daring the audience not to blink.
But “Nurse,” directed by Douglas Aarniokoski, is in desperate need of a better screenplay, one that strives for originality, to take risks, to shock or even offend the viewers. Instead, it rests on being a standard horror movie where blood and guts are spilled just because they need to be. What is the point of making a picture like this and not going all the way?