Are hopes and expectations dashed or raised by a film called Nurse (2013) starring Paz de la Huerta? It doesn’t suggest a classic, more a titillating horror comedy. Therefore, the whole endeavour edges close to the perilous shores of a joke-concept, and one expected to flounder on the rocks of a weak punchline with all hands lost. Director Douglas Aarniokoski puts his cards on the table with the opening credits sequence – a montage of salacious book covers reminiscent of dime-store crime fiction. From this striptease-style naughtiness, it’s apparent enough the tone the filmmaker is going for. Somewhat surprisingly, Nurse is an amusing neo-giallo/slasher.
Twinned with the pandering theme of the nursing profession as sexual fetish, the leading lady follows in the high-heeled footsteps of Marlene Dietrich, or Barbara Steele in Black Sunday (1960), in that the actress is turned into a fetish object themself. In all honesty, a large amount of the film’s appeal is derived from knowledge that Miss de la Huerta isn’t afraid to strip for her roles, and the ‘stoned party girl’ persona is as endearing as it is one-note. Sometimes, cinema must go for pure effect and ravishing sensation. Anybody that has seen de la Huerta in Boardwalk Empire or Enter the Void (2009) will know that she’s definitely not shy when it comes to acting in her birthday suit. But can such blatant exhibitionism ever work against a performer’s credibility? Absolutely, and depressingly so.
In the 1990s, before Ali G and Borat, there was Paul Kaye’s Dennis Pennis. He was the scourge of movie premieres and press conferences. The ginger-haired reporter with the big mouth and a lot of front asked many stars inappropriate questions, or put them on the spot with well-aimed zingers. He once inquired of Demi Moore, referring to Striptease (1996), that if it was in the best possible taste, and the script called for it, would she consider keeping her clothes on for a movie. As serial killer Abbie Russell, de la Huerta struts around – in a retro, fantasy nurse’s outfit and an array of cocktail dresses that look as if they’ve come direct from the Paris or Milan catwalks – and disposes of bad men (including Martin Donovan and Judd Nelson) by gruesome means. The routine Freudian primal scene, that explains away the cause of Abbie’s adult craziness, furthers the idea that the sole purpose of Nurse was to make a genre flick as a pretext to show off Paz de la Huerta – both as star and art object – with everything else secondary to that aim.