If you’ve read my reviews for any length of time, you probably know that I love a good piece of sleaze. Even when it’s bad, it’s so, so good. The filmmakers can be in on the joke or not, the actors can be po-faced or with their tongues jammed do deeply in their cheeks that dental surgery is required to get them out. As long as it hits that sublime balance between exploitation and camp, it’s all golden baby. And as good-to-be-bad movies go, Nurse is about as good as it gets. Or bad. Or… wait I don’t know. Look, Paz de la Huerta is naked, okay?! And usually slicing some philandering husband wide open at the same time. What kind of soulless monster can say no to that?
Yes Paz de la Huerta! And more importantly, Paz de la Haurta’s ample breasts! She (and they) strike a perverse blow for women’s rights as a serial killer who cuts down cheating men of all varieties in between shifts at the local hospital. Her methods betray a great deal of imagination… if your idea of imagination is cutting the artery in a man’s dick and watching him flail around while his blood pumps out like a fire hose. She works this angle with great enthusiasm until another nurse (Katrina Bowden) gets wind of what she’s doing. In response, she launches a series of sinister head games designed to convince the police that nothing is amiss and that her rival is actually the one a few syringes short of a drawer.
So Basic Instinct meets Fatal Attraction meets every fetish film about nurses and their patients that you’ve ever seen. In 3-D no less! Nurse never pretends to be anything but a guilty pleasure and leans full-bore into the potential. Any film that features Judd Nelson trying to blackmail a blowjob out of someone clearly has a sense of humor about itself, which serves as a secret weapon against any possible criticism that you can lay down. Bad acting? We got it! Shameless content, overheated melodrama and sense of bug-eyed enthusiasm that feeds into the completely over-the-top tone? Yeah, it’s all there. And it’s all so dreadfully beautiful that everything wrong with it becomes just another reason to love it so, so much.
The active embrace of its grindhouse soul benefits from that knowing tone. It’s not necessary to really enjoy the film, but laughing with the filmmakers always beats laughing at them. And Nurse is nothing if not fully aware of its own ridiculousness. The cast hams it up maniacally, save for de la Huerta who affects this stilted, blank delivery that screams “unhinged psychopath” from every frame. Naturally no one notices but our heroine, which is yet another sign of how a clear logic hole actually becomes a part of the fun.
It works so well in part because attaining this particular tone is tougher than it looks. Once Nurse reaches that spot, it can pretty much go nuts (which it does) and expect its intended audience to come along for the ride. Whether you belong to that audience or not is the most important question you can ask yourself. There’s a reason this film went live on VOD the same day it hit theaters. It’s the kind of thing you want to watch under cover of night, with the curtains drawn and a “Trespassers Will Be Shot” sign on your front door. You can’t talk about it in mixed company, and if you’re a part of that mixed company, its low-rent joys probably won’t move you in the least. But if you look at that poster and chuckle quietly to yourself, then hold on. This is exactly, precisely everything you hoped it would be.