The nurse exploitation subgenre, which often fits neatly inside the broader sexploitation genre, has been going strong now since at least 1970, when Roger Corman's New World Pictures released Stephanie Rothman's The Student Nurses. Plenty of films since toyed with or fully engaged with nurseploitation themes. A couple of years ago, Lionsgate dropped one of the more recent entries on a market that largely shrugged and ignored it. That film is Nurse 3D, and after a limited theatrical release, it quickly went to VOD and hasn't been mentioned much since. Which is a shame because, although it's flawed, it's also a gloriously bloody and riotously raunchy good time. All in all, a worthy addition to the cannon.
Nurse 3D is not shy about its intentions. It aims to be a modern cult classic, combining enough gore, nudity, sex, and violence to create a vicious, bloody, and at times hilarious b-movie. Director Doug Aarniokoski squarely positions it in the realm of the intentionally lowbrow, and for the most part succeeds. Sometimes it's unrepentant aping of exploitation elements grows tiresome, but there are certainly less entertaining ways to spend an hour and a half than watching star Paz de la Huerta as Nurse Abby Russell mercilessly butcher one victim after another.
You see, when Abby isn't strutting through the halls of the fictional All Saints Hospital in New York City, while wearing sky-high heels and the tightest, lowest-cut nursing outfit you've ever seen, she's a serial killer on a mission of retribution: she kills men who cheat on their women, often in creatively sadistic ways. Soon after witnessing one of her brutal kills, we meet the new nurse Abby will be mentoring, the naive blonde bombshell Danni Rogers (Katrina Bowden), who needs all the help she can get. If the daily trauma of working in the ER doesn't get her, there's the hilariously over the top naughty nurse Halloween costumes she and all of the nurses (including wisecracking Niecy Nash) are required to squeeze into - garter belts and thigh highs are required, ladies! All Saints is absurd because it's basically what a thirteen year old who's been weened on Skinemax thinks hospitals look like. Then there's pervy Dr. Morris (a scenery chewing Judd Nelson). When he isn't berating Danni in front of hospital staff, he's slapping her ass or grinding from behind—all right out in the open, during working hours! All Saints is a human resources nightmare.
It doesn't take long for Abby to seduce Danni into her web of dangerous sex and even more dangerous violence. Danni is engaged to a nice, wholesome paramedic, but Abby isn't having any of that, so she whisks her away for a night on the town and promptly drugs her, sloppily makes out with her at the club, and finally wrangles her into a three-way with some random dude—making sure to snap a bazillion incriminating photos that she'll use later, too.
If all of this sounds exceedingly unseemly to you, I'm hear to tell you it most definitely is. With Nurse 3D, you can either lean into the outrageous behavior, or tag yourself out and walk away. If you choose the former, you're in for a wild ride. The entire setup is a fantasy world, conjured to be preposterous, and at times the film hits this satirical mark beautifully. Maybe it's also trying to say something about the patriarchy and female sexuality. Or maybe it's just trying to be as offensive as possible.
At this point in the film we're in full-on Single White Female territory, as Abby begins to systematically dismantle Danni's life because she's the only one who really understands her, dammit! And if she can't have her, no one can. Abby seduces and kills Danni's philandering stepfather, sleeps with the investigating police detective in order to throw suspicion off her and onto Danni, and generally behaves in increasingly demented ways towards Danni, who is trying to keep her distance. But Abby will not be denied! Danni does some digging and discovers Abby's not who she says she is, and everything she's doing is a reaction to a childhood trauma that scarred her for life. Everything comes together in a Grand Guignol finale at All Saints, with Danni and her boyfriend furiously trying to capture Abby as she rampages through the hospital killing patients, staff, and security guards with terrifying efficiency.
Paz de le Huerta is deliciously evil as crazy Abby. She plays up her sensuality to comical levels, and her permanently sleepy, hooded eyes convey sex and death in equal measure. It would be fascinating to pit her against the droogs from A Clockwork Orange. She'd show them just how nasty a little of the old "in and out" can be, I bet. Katrina Bowden is perfectly cast as the sort of doe-eyed innocent blonde who would fall under Abby's prey, yet also be tough enough to fight back when things start to go off the rails.
Nurse 3D loses a bit of steam towards the end, before revving back up for an absolutely bonkers finale and a darkly funny coda. It doesn't seem to have garnered much of a cult status yet, but in many ways it has all the makings of a modern cult classic. If it had been made in the late 1980s, it most assuredly would've been aired on USA Up All Night, and I can only imagine what fun host Rhonda Shear would've had with it. As it stands, Nurse 3D is an uneven but mostly worthy modern take on the classic nursesploitation film. It's distasteful, sexy, brutal, and laced with just enough black humor to keep you chuckling along as Nurse Abby's mayhem escalates.