The Nurse (1997): Clap for Pierre David

Matty books an appointment with an acceptable bit of hokum.

One of the many — many — occupational psycho thrillers to come from the Pierre David assembly line (The Paperboy (1994), The Secretary (1995), The Dentist (1996) etc.), THE NURSE is a passable lark. Lisa Zane stars as Laura Harriman, the titular medico who blags a job as the live-in carer of a catatonic business exec, Bob Martin (Michael Fairman) — the man she deems personally responsible for her family’s death in a tragic murder-suicide committed by her disgraced embezzler father (Lou Felder). Cue a moderately entertaining if dramatically toothless campaign of terror as Harriman exacts her revenge.

Though about as straight a copy of The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992) as you can get — which given how regularly Curtis Hanson’s trendsetter was plundered by DTV filmmakers in the ‘90s and early ‘00s is really saying something — the Martin character suffering from locked-in syndrome and being trapped inside his own body is an arresting new wrinkle and a novel hook. Written and co-produced by David regular Richard Brandes (Martial Law (1990), The Killing Grounds (1997)), The Nurse’s screenplay is nicely paced but reliant on trite dialogue and oh-so-convenient plotting that stretches its credibility. Characters are thinly sketched but workable. Performance wise, Zane is good value, alternating between charming and chilly depending on what mask she has to wear; Janet Gun is OK as Martin’s savvy, rat-smelling daughter Karen; and Fairman is excellent, managing to express a wide variety of emotions with subtle tics and breathing techniques despite the fact he’s playing a blank-faced vegetable for much of the movie. The rest of the cast are as weak as their roles, with a morose John Stockwell especially awful — so awful, in fact, that it’s tempting to rule him the real vegetable… 

Attacking The Nurse with modest aplomb, director Robert Malenfant hits all the right beats in terms of tension and delivers a decent slasher flick finale. Another David mainstay, Malenfant fell in with the producer’s Image Organization as an A.D. before going on to helm a slew of similarly-minded suspensers for the Canadian B-movie merchant, The Night Caller (1998), The Landlady (1998), and The Perfect Nanny (2001) among them. 

Edited in tandem with two other Image joints, Stranger in the House (1997) and Cupid (1997), The Nurse debuted on British video in January 1997 via First Independent — a frequent distributor of David’s wares. It landed on U.S. tape six months later courtesy of Live Entertainment, with whom the busy David had a domestic output deal. 

USA ● 1997 ● Thriller ● 89mins

Lisa Zane, Janet Gun, John Stockwell, Michael Fairman ● Dir. Robert Malenfant ● Wri. Richard Brandes

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