Your 1960’s Smut Cover Made Real
If you haven’t seen the enticing posters or heard the notorious whispers, Douglas
Aarniokoski’s NURSE 3D is the horror movie you should watch if like some sex-laced spice with your carnage. See it now. Um, nurse’s orders…
The film stars the amazing Paz de la Huerta (translation: Orchard Peace. How cool of a name is that?), the woman who gained attention thanks to Gaspar Noé’s ENTER THE VOID (2009). As nurse Abby Russell, she rocks the role with enough confidence and drive to take over the planet. And in Zaldy’s retro-fetish nurse outfit, she exudes sex with every tantalizing step.
Regardless of what you may have heard, this is not a soft porn flick, but a quirky fantasy horror as if Aarniokoski and co-writer Doug Loughery had lifted the idea from a 1960’s smut cover – you know, the lurid paperbacks full of ridiculous purple prose that the American government had tried without success to shut down. Sonsabitches. NURSE 3D involves Nurse Abby’s tale of maybe not so twisted justice against cheating husbands and unappreciative boyfriends. To keep with the noir take the film conjures, we even get witty narration from de la Huerta, which matches the equally witty dialogue. But her simple world of destroying adulterous men is upended by ingénue nurse, Danni (Katrina Bowden), when she enters the hospital, and here lies the crux of the tale: Abby’s goal is to take down slimy men, but her real adversary may be the hot blonde she wants to get oh so close to.
Aarniokoski delivers on all fronts with a killer tale interwoven with quirky characters and their never-ending exchanges, including Judd Nelson as an abuse-of-power surgeon, the stand her ground Niecy Nash, Boris Kodjoe as the detective who doesn’t play, Corbin Bleu as the stand up EMT, and even Kathleen Turner as the head nurse (with no Jessica Rabbit costume in sight). Even Katrina Bowden has the opportunity to take what would otherwise be a stock character of goody-two-shoes sensibility and turn her into someone vibrant and almost as unforgiving as the conniving and holier than thou Nurse Abby.
Although the film’s tone is in opposition to his dystopian THE DAY, Aarniokoski proves that he can create one Hell of a tale that delivers high quality to audiences. A comedic tone does weave its way through the film, which borders on funny but never stupid. Otherwise, NURSE 3D is fast, fun and often relentless in its butchery, which should satisfy the gore hound crowd. In addition, the practical and makeup effects are spot-on.
The only negative is that Aarniokoski shot the film in 3D. This means the CGI effects, once squashed to 2D, look abysmal as it does for most films (remember the PIRANHA remake and those silly fish?). Yes, this is a major distraction – and disappointment. However, the great outweighs the ridiculous, and NURSE 3D reigns supreme.
The rumor, thanks to Paz de la Huerta’s Twitter comment, “RT if u want a Sequel to Nurse 3D” is that a sequel may be in the works. Only time will tell, but even the great people at http://www.horror-movies.ca/ are trying to stir the bedpan, and that’s a fabulous thing. My only hope is that Aarniokoski will leave the 3D gimmick behind and move forward with de la Huerta at her sexy and bloody best.
4 out of 5 stars
(Photo from Myetshin.)
Not Close Enough
Haneke’s shot-by-shot remake of his 1997 Austrian film establishes the Farber family as a trio of well-off Americans residing in a gated vacation house. They go about their normal business when a snotty, Eddie Haskell-esque kid (Michael Pitt) comes in and asks for eggs. Afterwards, the story tailspins into a hellish, tension-filled story of emotional and physical sadism where the duo works hard to take down the trinity of Father, Son, and mommy as our Holy Ghost.
*** BIG TIME SPOILER ALERT ***
The always stunning and more than capable Naomi Watts plays Ann Farber, with Tim Roth as her impotent husband, George, and Devon Gearheart delivers a stellar performance as their young son. Michael Pitt (of HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH fame) with his still boyish looks and Brady Corbet – his sidekick in mayhem, malice and murder – portray ever-smiling serial killers.
On occasion Paul addresses the audience directly, breaking the fourth wall, which is extremely distracting, and makes what’s happening on screen less genuine because it interrupts the otherwise steady tension. Haneke may have done this simply to taunt the audience, to let us know without a doubt that we were incapable of reaching through the screen to help the family. However, by rewinding a crucial scene, Haneke deprives the family and audience of any victory over the situation and its villains. In effect, Haneke is telling us we simply must suffer the overall experience. Worst still, Paul tells the audience that he and his cohort must leave the family for a while to create dramatic tension so the movie can be given time to reach “feature length,” which proved to be extremely irritating. Near the end, Peter and Paul discuss the gray line between fiction and reality, which means Haneke poses the question: “Does life imitate art or does art imitate life?” Since studies show that watching violent films, cartoons, and video games, as well as listening to violent music, does not encourage violence, Haneke’s already answered his own pseudo-philosophical question. Either way, Peter and Paul are the disciples that bring us the message of violence, just as Peter and Paul brought Christianity to Rome.
Many of the scenes were long, but they added to the suspense and were far from boring. In some scenes that appear to be too dark, such as when George Junior is running and hiding in a neighbor’s home, we find ourselves looking through the abyss to see if Paul is catching up to him. George Junior could not see him and neither could the audience, until Haneke deemed it necessary, making this an excellent cinematic touch. There was only one lame setup (the knife falling into the boat) that was later used to taunt the audience with another avenue of false hope near story’s end.
With Haneke’s commentary on fiction/reality and violence in film/life, he also removes “the man of the house” or “captain” from the equation. After Peter breaks George’s leg with a golf club, Father Farber is left impotent and cannot save his son or his wife. When his wife prepares to leave the home in search of help after their son is killed, he says, “Please forgive me.” Afterwards, he is left with the chore of holding a hair dryer to a wet cell phone. Even here, he fails and can not get a call out to the police. As George was emasculated, so are the men in the audience, for we are also impotent and cannot intervene to save anyone. In effect, Haneke may be asking all males: As men, whom can we really save? I am not sure if he is asking us as men to stand up to violence in our lives, or if he wants men to relinquish old world ideas of masculinity, or if he’s simply taunting for taunting’s sake. From “Films as Catharsis,” Haneke does state that his movies “are intended … for provocation and dialogue instead of consumption and consensus.” This means there may be no right answers except in the minds of those taking part in the discussion.
A couple of things are puzzling, however. Initially, the family seems to have little reaction to the young invaders. Fight or flight is virtually absent and they stand around in awe of the finely dressed young men. This may be because they are not used to violence and never expected anything to happen to them in their own home in such a well-established and wealthy lake community. They meet “the uncanny” and are left with an inactive, wide-eyed response, like deer in, well, you know. When leaving the house, Ann does not take a knife to defend herself, and she runs out onto the road where she is ultimately recaptured. Knowing the killers left in their SUV, which was the only vehicle, why did she not try the boat first or at least stay off the main road and run with the tree line?
Regarding the uncanny, Haneke has the camera following the Farbers around the house, focusing attention on what they own, from golf clubs to shoes, and gives us an inside look at their refrigerator. Though nothing horrific happens in this sequence, we are left with an unsettling feeling that what is normal and mundane will enter the realm of Freud’s uncanny. The inciting incident has to do with the dropping of eggs and the verbal altercation and attitudes that follow. Then, a golf club becomes a weapon to kill a dog and break a man’s leg. A small kitchen knife is used to torture. Moreover, the phone – the lifeline – is soaked, low on energy, and cannot be used to save the family. The two killers appear to be fine men, all in “good guy” white, ready for a tennis match; they smile often and are well spoken. Other than the shotgun, simple things we normally find innocuous are turned against the family – from inside their own home no less.
The actors, cinematographer Darius Khondji (for providing some off-kilter camera angles, which made it appear as if we were voyeurs), and unyielding tension made the grade. I was not impressed, however, with Paul playing to the audience, regardless of Haneke’s intentions, because this extracted us from that uncanny world he had fought so hard to create.
Most importantly, Haneke failed to deliver something new. But Haneke did deliver in creating elements of fear and horror for any person caught up in the illusion that home is a sanctuary.
3 out of 5 stars
(Photo from MoviePhone.)
Billy and Jonny explore French horror, from early silents like 1896’s THE HAUNTED CASTLE to modern masterpieces like MARTYRS. We explore what sets French horror apart from the mundane, and why EYES WITHOUT A FACE, DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS, THE HORDE, and INSIDE, will continue to excite audiences in timeless fashion.
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Talk about your much maligned sub-genres. Found footage has a usually love or hate relationship with horror fans with little room in between. For many, “jerky” camera movements tick them off to no end, and for others, this sub-genre is getting really, really tired due to story redundancy. Worst still, a simple argument from many is this: Why wouldn’t the idiot with the camera just drop it and run?
To date, nearly 100 found footage horrors have been produced. Sadly, most rely on the same elements of shock and awe to keep the audience guessing – which leads to a conditioned response of near boredom. Granted, horror does that in general, but with found footage, we’ve grown accustomed to filmmaker’s expectations. For example, it seems as if most actors have to prove how well they can scream as they’re dragged into the darkness by unseen forces, or how to yell at the other red shirts they’re with in whatever spooky house they’re visiting.
Like any horror film, two items are key: storytelling and characters. Whether it’s a ghost story, alien mayhem, or found footage, you can’t pass those up by any means.
Here’s the best found footage has to offer and why:
Cloverfield (2008) – 4.5 stars
This is the creature feature that came with the jerky camera warning. Another problem: people hated the characters – maybe because they were so real. Even so, no one could fathom why Hud (TJ Miller) would hang onto that damn camera. Well, why not record a historical document? And if that sounds lame, put me in Hud’s place and I’d do the same. Yes, I love history because it’s preservation is our only time machine. As for CGI, this is one of the few that did it well. In fact, it’s hard to believe in this virtually hopeless tale that almost every element was shot on green screen. Too bad Godzilla films don’t bring us such a sense of foreboding and hopelessness.
Paranormal Activity (2007) – 4.5 stars
Oren Peli’s surprise venture earned him an office at Paramount. The film explores an average young couple in an average house dealing with above average phenomenon. Better still, the story didn’t rely on trite jump scares, but played with the imagination to such a degree that the suspense never waned (think old time black-and-white horror like THE UNINVITED with Ray Milland). The tale captured the nightmares of my childhood and each time I watch this thing, I freak out to the point where sleep’s almost impossible.
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006) – 4 stars
Nathan Baesel sells it all the way as Leslie Vernon, the man who has a film crew follow him as he tries to get his name up there with “Jason” and “Freddie.” The movie’s funny, bloody, and bizarre, and serves as a killer commentary on American media’s love for turning serial and spree killers into household names. Witty and unsettling, the blackness of the comedy makes this one poignant low budget horror. Play Morrissey’s “Last of the International Playboys” now.
The Blair Witch Project (1999) – 4 stars
The film delivered a monochromatic foray of desperation and intensity that set the standard for the rules of found footage. Though many claim it ripped off CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, the only reason found footage films didn’t happen sooner was because of the lack of access for regular people to carry around cameras due to size and film costs. Thanks to Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, their tale of naïve documentarians in search of the truth behind a legend launched a sub-genre. Like PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, this played on my childhood fears.
The Last Broadcast (1998) – 4 stars
Actor David Beard brings the creep factor in this chilling mockumentary. Lance Weiler and Stefan Avalos delivered a story about the hunt for the Jersey Devil to viewers with a twist and a turn that proved disconcerting. Smart and suspenseful, the film delivers on an emotional level that unleashes a cold and distant feeling. Now that’s horror. Embrace the dark atmosphere and see why Weiler is one of the best independent storytellers of our time.
Paranormal Activity 3 (2011) – 4 stars
Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman made what many think is the best of the demonic franchise (too bad the pair blew it with the fourth installment). The scares are intense, come out of nowhere, and leave us shaken thanks to excellent visual effects. Until the second film, which feeds on the success of the first film like a stupid parasite, this one brings wit, charm, and a more professional look to the series.
The Last Exorcism (USA/France, 2010) – 3.5 stars
Many fans questioned the end of this film, though it does work on several levels once one mulls it over. Regardless, Patrick Fabian’s turn as Cotton Marcus is fabulous, and we’re also introduced to the phenomenal Ashley Bell and the equally amazing Caleb Landry Jones. The story of a young woman either being brutalized by her father or a demon is completely disturbing. With solid acting and a tumultuous tale, this movie’s hard to ignore.
My Little Eye (UK/USA/France/Canada, 2002) – 3.5 stars
Are you in for found footage from a reality show? Sean CW Johnson brings frenetic realism to this conflict-ridden tale, also featuring Jennifer Sky, and a young Bradley Cooper. As for the reality show: What would you do to win big when you think the show you’re on might not really exist? With this broadcast, getting voted off the island takes on a whole new meaning. Shot in a lonely house in the dead of winter, there’s no room for escape from cameras that are always watching.
Skew (2011) – 3.5 stars
This one still leaves me in contemplation and upon a second viewing, the star rating could change for better or worse. Besides some decent scares, great character interactions, and more, the final scene is one cool head scratcher open for interpretation. But if you’ve ever had an obsessed friend who doesn’t know when to turn off the damn camera, you should appreciate this film. However, it may leave you with one freaky feeling when the credits roll.
The Tunnel (Australia, 2011) – 3.5 stars
This one outdoes many mockumentaries with a strong story and solid acting, as well as great structure. The only problem: from the interviews we know who lives and who dies long before the final act. But pay close attention to actor Steven Davis. In real cinematic life he’s a cameraman, but he delivers a highly spirited performance. Enjoy this news team as they research those things down under in Down Under.
Other great found footage horrors: Cannibal Holocaust (Italy, 1980), The Last Horror Movie (UK, 2003), [Rec] (Spain, 2007), Quarantine (2008), Undocumented (2010), and Europa Report (2013), V/H/S 2 (2013)
Over-rated and over-hyped found footage follies: Home Movie (2008), Trollhunter (Norway, 2010), V/H/S (2012), and the idiocy that is Evidence (2013).
(Cloverfield photo from Wodu Media.)