★ / ★★★★
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?
The Uninvited (2009)
★★ / ★★★★
“The Uninvited,” directed by Charles Guard and Thomas Guard, is a remake of a Korean film “A Tale of Two Sisters.” I have not seen the latter but I was actually surprised with how this one turned out because the trailers looked unconvincing to say it lightly. This picture is about a girl (Emily Browning) who is recently released from a mental hospital. When she returns home, she finds out that her father (David Strathairn) is in a relationship with the very same nurse (Elizabeth Banks) who took care of her mother when she was still alive. After dreaming about her mother’s angry ghost proclaiming that the nurse murdered her, the main character teams up with her spunky sister (Arielle Kebbel) and the two gather up evidence to get the nurse out of their lives. Since the movie is about a girl who has been recently released from a mental hospital, I decided to view this film from a psychological point of view. Right away, I knew something was a bit off with some of the characters because they exhibited paranoia, delusions and even psychosis with memory relapses. Yes, the premise of the film involved a ghost story/murderer backdrop but I thought that all of it was ultimately justified considering the main character’s state of mind. To me, this is not really a horror film as most people would say. It’s more of a psychological thriller because the way the story unfolded is really from the main character’s perspective. It was able to utilize the whole evil stepmother concept to add to the ever-growing conflict in the house (and stress that comes with it). The stresses then triggers something explainable (to an extent) which happened in the final act. This horror remake is far from perfect but it was interesting enough to keep my attention to figure out what was really happening underneath the supernatural facade. Having said that, I can also understand why a person who sees this film from a purely horror genre perspective may be frustrated with it. I say if one is remotely interested in watching it for whatever reason, then by all means do so. But I must give a warning that “The Uninvited” offers nothing new.
★★ / ★★★★
I think a lot of critics and audiences alike have been way harsh on this film. I concur that this picture is not easy to swallow and digest since most of the story took place in one area. It definitely got suffocating because the audiences are subjected to see the same place for about an hour and fifteen minutes (the middle portion); the only things that changed are the increasingly disgusting living conditions of the blind and the dynamics among the wards. Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore lead one of the wards, a doctor and a doctor’s wife, one lost his sight and the other one kept her sight (though it must be kept a secret), respectively. It was interesting to watch their relationship change as the film went on because Ruffalo depended on his wife regarding pretty much everything. There was a brilliant scene when Ruffalo talked to Moore about not seeing her the same after she feeds him, bathes him, and cleans him up in ways that a nurse or mother normally does. There was this undeniable tension between them but at the same time they must stay together because everything around them is falling apart. I thought it was interesting how Fernando Meirelles, the director, chose to tell the story. In the first few scenes, we focus on this one man who suddenly goes blind in the middle of traffic (Yusuke Iseya) and slowly transition to other people suddenly going blind to the point where it becomes an epidemic. The epidemic and ravaged city reminded me of “28 Days Later” and “28 Weeks Later,” only instead of zombies roaming the streets, it’s blind individuals. I also liked the slightly hopeful ending because the suffering was not entirely for naught. Still, by the end of the picture, I still wanted to know the source of the epidemic. That lack of explanation somewhat got to me (and I imagine as most people would). I don’t deny the fact that I saw some hints of great filmmaking here such as the stark contrast between certain images in the beginning and the end of the movie. I also liked the “Lord of the Flies” element in the quarantine zone when everyone had to decide who would get how much food, who the leader should be and who would emerge victorious between the wards. I’ve never seen Gael García Bernal so immoral so his character definitely took me by surprise. With a little bit more explanation and less saggy middle portion, this would’ve been a much powerful film. The acting was already really good and there were scenes that really tugged at my heartstrings. See this if you’re curious and hopefully you’ll see what I see in it: potential.