I try to avoid snark when talking about movies. Too often, criticism feels like a race to see who can come up with the snappiest, bitchiest punchline. In watching Nurse, I have failed to come up with anything to say about the movie that isn’t bitchy. My notes on this movie read like rejected Chandler Bing quotes “Could Paz De La Huerta be any more naked in this movie?” So, instead of just riffing, I decided to take three nitpicky topics that bugged me about the movie and try to pretend that it’s all intentionally part of a much better artistic project than Nurse actually is.
Reason #3) Abby changes race during flashbacks
Abby is played by Paz De La Huerta, who is of Spanish descent and doesn’t not look Spanish. No problem there. Where things start to get fishy is during flashbacks when we see Abby’s white dad get into an altercation with Abby’s white mom, which is all witnessed by young, white-looking Abby. Somehow, over the course of adolescence, Abby changes race.
What this criticism fails to recognize is that this casting is not an oversight or error but rather an intentional choice to demonstrate how untrustworthy memory can be. When the orderly is recollecting the events of Abby’s childhood, he is constructing a decades-old narrative from hearsay and documents, filling in the gaps with his own identity. The scene, as it plays out, is not an actual flashback but a story about Abby’s childhood as told by somebody who barely knows her.
Issue #2) Abby’s voice
Abby sounds like she was recently taught how to speak English phonetically by a drag performer doing Marilyn Monroe.
Abby isn’t supposed to operate on the same wavelength as everybody else. Her humanity is an impersonation of other people around her. She still can feel some raw emotions, like lust and jealousy but she lacks the ability to truly empathize with other people. While she cannot express most emotions, her voice nonetheless always sounds like sex. This is the language that Abby is able to speak most clearly, so even her mundane interactions are peppered with husky sensuality.
Issue #1) The heroine runs headfirst into trouble
Near the end of the movie, the object of Abby’s desires, Danni (Katrina Bowden), worried that Abby has done something to her boyfriend, Steve (Corbin Bleu), chases Abby down in the hospital where they work. Despite having the knowledge that Abby is willing to kidnap, violate and likely murder people, Danni still thinks the best way to confront her is to run up to Abby and place herself within stabbing distance. As nurses, security guards, and orderlies are assaulted, electrocuted, and otherwise lain waste to, it takes an upsettingly long time for Danni to start running *away* from Abby instead of the other way around. Then, once Danni runs into Steve, she is immediately re-emboldened to pursue this woman, despite now knowing full well how psychopathically violent she is. It takes Steve getting stabbed in the neck to get Danni to stop running full clip toward a serial murderer.
This is the theme we (the hypothetical film-makers) most wanted to come through in Nurse: the horror that grows out of misplaced compassion. Abby is a nurse, which is a job that, by its very nature, requires care and sympathy. Nurses offer compassion professionally. What we wanted to show was that compassion and politeness can be detrimental when they force us to ignore gut reactions. Everything about Abby feels wrong, from her vacant facial expressions to her lack of personal boundaries but compassion – or at least politeness – from others for her eccentricities leaves her free to terrorize the lives of anyone who catches her attention.
Danni, also a nurse, turns a blind eye to a multitude of red flags when it comes to Abby, leading to the violent deaths and mutilations of a dozen or so people. Compassion is the ability to see past our initial, primal responses but we forget that those responses have been programmed into us by tens of thousands of years of survival. In making a horror film, we wanted to explore the idea of what is truly scary about our modern world and we realized that sometimes, the scariest things happen when people are too nice to see them coming.
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Nurse is also available from Amazon.