The Nurse (1997)

nurse2cover0220 horror movies for $5; what could possibly go wrong?  Part V.

It was a pretty good run — I actually liked the first 4 movies in this collection.  But the streak is over.  Not a fiasco, but definitely the weakest so far.

Nurse Laura Harriman (Lisa Zane) nearly kills a patient by injecting him with the wrong drug.  She is a little distracted because her father has just been charged with embezzlement.  It is made pretty clear that Mr. Harriman is guilty, but there seems to be a lot of weeping and hand-wringing at his prosecution.

Harriman is distraught over being fired, and humiliated that his embezzlement has made the paper.  “30 years I gave that company, and this is how they repay me,” he moans to his daughter.  This is played as a serious plea, not an indication of his state of mind.  A more accurate observation would be, “30 years I gave that company, they should have me killed for betraying them.”

He shoots his wife, his other child, and himself. As his wife was dying, I wonder if she was thinking. “30 years I gave that man, and this is how he repays me.”?  Laura is in her 30s, so the math even works.

The man who fired him is also anguished that this has become public and that the police are involved.  I don’t remember this this outpouring of sympathy for the dicks at Enron.  Or WorldCom.  Or Bernie Madoff.  Actually, I don’t recall this level of sympathy for Princess Diana.

As Bob Martin — the executive who busted him — is going to work, a reporter tells him that Harriman has killed his family and himself.  In a bit of an overreaction, this causes Martin to suffer a stroke which results in Locked-in syndrome.


James Rebhorn, no wait, Michael Fairman

This is a horrific condition wherein the victim is paralyzed, but is fully sensate and aware of his surroundings.

This is the only original idea in the movie, and it walks a thin line. This is a tragic fate for anyone, so you hate to see it cavalierly used as a plot device in a mediocre movie.

However, it does set up an interesting dynamic in that the titular nurse can later taunt him, fully reveal her motivation and plans, carry out murders right in front of him, and he is powerless to stop her or tell anyone; even when safely in his luxurious home, surrounded by his family.

I do have to give them some credit for not pulling any Weekend at Bernie’s shenanigans.  Also, I’m sure some brainiac along the way suggested that having Bob’s thoughts be heard as a voice-over would be a swell idea.  Wisely, this was not done.

But that cuts both ways.  Not hearing Bob’s thoughts theoretically increases the tension, but you also have the other actors essentially playing against a painting.  No matter what happens, Bob will have the same non-reaction.  This could have been made into something exceptional by a Hitchcock, or an auteur, or a just a director.  Here, it just is; nothing more is brought to the scenario.

Laura assumes the identity of another nurse, Susan Lang, and goes to see Martin.  Ya have to credit her for honesty — she tells him exactly who she is, who her father was, and that she intends to make him suffer.

After he is discharged — these insurance companies are brutal! — his personal nurse takes him for a push around the lake a a local park.  Laura stops and makes nice chat with them.  The nurse does not know her; of course, Bob does, but is powerless to do anything.  After the nurse loads Bob back into the van, Laura plunges a syringe into her neck with a drug which will simulate, or maybe stimulate, a heart attack.

Luckily both their lifeless bodies are discovered shortly thereafter by his daughter Karen before either of them gets too ripe in the van.  To clarify: although lifeless, Bob is still alive.


Bob’s insanely hot daughter

Yada yada, Laura / Susan is hired as Bob’s private nurse.  Credit to the writer for believably getting Laura into the house.  Too often, this would have just been the result of a series of ridiculous coincidences.

Not so much credit for extraneous characters and a divorce subplot that adds nothing.  In fact by giving Bob’s son license to make out with the Nurse, it might be counter-productive.

Finally, after 45 minutes, we get the first kill and it is not even a member of the family.  At the 1 hour mark, Laura finally commences her plan.

The biggest problem here is that the whole production comes off as a Lifetime movie.  Of course, I say that having never seen a Lifetime movie.  What I imagine this movie has in common with them is an abundance of melodrama, freakishly good-looking people, a deadly dull unaffecting score, largely bloodless deaths, and a leaden pace.

If one thing could have been changed, I think a new score would have helped immensely.  Also, Lisa Zane was adequte, but not one molecule better than that.

It really deserves a 4 but I’ll give it an extra point for the original idea, and for not grossly exploiting it.  But I take the point back for not exploiting it in the good way.

Post-Post Leftovers:

  • Nancy Dussault is best known from Too Close for Comfort.  She has only 2 movie credits:  the classic The In-Laws and this load.
  • Lisa Zane also has at least one great movie on her resume, Bad Influence.  Sadly, I think that one from 1990 is almost completely forgotten.  Even NetFlix does not stock it.
  • If Michael Fairman and James Rebhorn were hot babes, I would put together a separated at birth mash-up.
  • I was shocked that given how awful this score was, the composer has been working his be-hind off ever since.
  • The Nurse is also available on YouTube, but why would you?nursezane01

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