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Stars: Paz de la Huerta, Katrina Bowden, Judd Nelson, Corbin Bleu, Martin Donovan, Boris Kodjoe, Niecy Nash, Adam Herschman, Melanie Scrofano and Kathleen Turner.
Writers: Doug Aarniokoski and David Loughery.
Director: Doug Aarniokoski

Reviewed at the 2014 Gold Coast Film Festival, Friday April 4.

Rating: 4/5

A splattery, sleazy blast from that opening moment when our pulse-quickening anti-hero slices the femoral artery of an unfaithful husband she is manually pleasuring, Douglas Aarniokoski’s mondo retro Nurse 3D is just what the doctor ordered.

Shamelessly oozing the spirit of grindhouse era no-brainers in which nickel’n’dime showmen took advantage of lowest common denominator audience tastes, this gruesomely giddy midnight-movie homage is also a technically dazzling achievement. The twin lens of DOP Boris Mojsovski captures the third dimension with a precision and artistry that puts to shame the big-budget conversion process that is cheapening the add-on; Nurse 3D creates a garish nightmare-scape of deep primary colours and dripping atmosphere that evocatively convinces.

The she-devil who rules this sordid domain is Abby Russell, by day an ER nurse of considerable standing but at night, an inventive angel of vengeance who takes down philandering males with scalpels, needles, bone saws, etc. Abby Russell is played by the statuesque and sexually fearless Paz de la Huerta in a manner that brings to life the darkest fantasies of your average hormone-ravaged teenage loner; her line delivery suggests Abby may not be very bright, yet it is revealed her identity is a carefully constructed series of backstory lies that only a brilliant, if psychopathic mind could manifest.

Huerta towers over the film, an Olivia De Berardinis creation brought to life in a world that might have been conjured by the combined psyches of Brian de Palma and Bob Guccione. The insanely fetishistic hospital uniforms created by costumer Zaldy (previously responsible for not-so-subtle stage adornments worn by Lady Gaga and Britney Spears) wrap around the actress and her equally beguiling co-star Katrina Bowden with a lascivious adherence; healthcare facilities in this alternate universe (clearly intended to reflect the messed-up mindset of Nurse Abby) are seemingly populated by extras from ‘that’ Robert Palmer video. All of which may be overstating the presence of clothes of any kind in the film; most often, scenes will ebb and flow between shots of bottoms, breasts or, on more than one occasion, full frontal nudity.

For all its gleefully puerile reliance on the gratuitous, there is an undercurrent of puritanical moralising that is inherent to the horror genre’s traditional views on sex. In Nurse 3D, that carries the extra baggage of Sapphic sinning, as Abby and Bowden’s Danni become entangled in a possessive affair that slyly serves both the titillation factor and the B-movie contortions of the plot.

Male co-stars are generally asked to be sleazy slaves to their appendages (Martin Donovan’s predatory stepdad; Judd Nelson’s hospital chief; Boris Kodjoe’s investigating detective), drawn to the pleasures promised by Huerta’s sex-bomb siren only to be taught that such indulgences come with a bloody price. Only Corbin Bleu, indicating beyond doubt that he is ready to leave his High School Musical days behind, exhibits anything close to human decency as Danni’s boyfriend, EMT newbie Steve.

There is a second-act slackening that could have been avoided with a stronger grasp of the narrative’s black comedy potential; audiences may find themselves reaching for that extra bit of dark wit that would have tipped the film over into true off-the-wall cult insanity. But by the time Nurse Abby’s homicidal proclivities are given full flight in a final reel rampage (recalling the medical horrors and energetic excesses of Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator), minor shortcomings are forgotten. Both sicker and smarter than expected, Nurse 3D is a surgically-precise cut above.  

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