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The Nurse

Aiming the camera upward at the monstrous figure of The Nurse and shouting, "Boo!" is the modus operandi of this unsubtle straight-to-video horror exercise. And while fright fans may tolerate overly-familiar slasher film conventions if they're leavened with a little campy ham-on-wry, they'll find the deadly (dully) serious THE NURSE serves up nothing but turkey. Fired for embezzlement, executive George Harriman (Lou Felder) blames his woes on his whistle-blowing boss, Bob Martin (Michael Fairman). When the cowardly Harriman murders his wife and son before taking his own life, the news so stresses out compassionate Bob that he suffers a paralyzing stroke. Taking advantage of this situation (and ignoring the facts of her disgraced father's guilt), nurse Laura Harriman (Lisa Zane) vows to avenge his suicide. Borrowing a nursing associate's identity to cover her tracks, Laura eliminates Bob's caregiving nurse with a drug-induced heart attack and replaces her. Using the tricks of her healing trade, Laura bedevils Bob, who can't speak or communicate in any way. Although Nurse Laura fools Bob's current wife, Carol (Nancy Dussault), and his son, Jack (John Stockwell), she can't win over Bob's prodigal daughter, Karen (Janet Gunn). Prying into the Martin family's vulnerabilities, Laura discovers that Carol is a diabetic, Jack is undergoing a messy divorce from greedy Brooke (Sherrie Rose), and Karen is suffering from the guilt of abandoning her family after her mom, the first Mrs. Martin, was killed in a car accident in which Karen was the driver. Forced to bludgeon to death John Beecher (Jay Underwood), a snoopy reporter who recognizes her, Laura next dispatches Carol with an insulin overdose and stair-case fall. While Karen relays her doubts about Laura to former boyfriend/family retainer Michael (William Moses), Laura keeps busy by seducing gullible Jack. Although Karen's investigation of Laura yields results, she can't prevent Laura from gunning down Brooke and framing Jack for it; and then shooting Jack and trying to disconnect his life support following surgery. Five days later, Laura invades the Martin home, slits a cop's throat, wounds Michael, and engages Karen in a brutal cat fight. Finally, Karen blows away the nutty nurse. In THE NURSE, Bob Martin suffers from a post-stroke condition entitled Locked-In Syndrome. So does this terror flick, which doesn't veer one inch from its route straight through standard revenge-thriller territory. Rigidly adhering to suspense formulas, the film even frames its attack sequences in directorially derivative ways. Film historians should note that THE NURSE inadvertently disputes the famous Kuleshov effect in which a passive close-up of an actor was juxtaposed with shots of various objects; the audience perceived different reactions depending on what (e.g., food, a crying baby, etc.) followed the close-up. In THE NURSE, every time the film cuts back to the ultra-frozen face of paralyzed Bob Martin, we are only struck by the inability of the actor playing him (Fairman) to register anything with his eyes. The oft-repeated intercutting of blankly staring close-ups makes a mockery of the suffering of stroke victims and also of this film's intention to frighten viewers. (Graphic violence, extreme profanity, adult situations.)