Sick Nurses, a strange Thai horror film directed by Thospol Sirivivat and Piraphan Laoyont, is a pretty weird little film that, on the surface, looks so much like the countless other Asian horror films that deal with jerky moving long haired female ghosts. While the film certainly uses many of the conventions established by the godfathers of the genre such as the Ring and Ju-On films, the similarities to those better known pictures are really quite superficial.
The movie takes place in a strange hospital that has seen better days. The facility isn't as well maintained as it could be and its staff is, shall we say, a little odd. Here, seven young nurses have been illegally selling the body parts of dead patients at the behest of the doctor in charge. This rather morbid little racket is going swimmingly until one of the sexy young nurses starts to fall for the doctor. She decides that in order to get him all to herself she should push her six co-workers away and try to convince them to get out of this rather lucrative scam they've got going on. When she threatens to go to the cops and spill the beans, she winds up the victim of murder! She's not going to go down easily, however, as she curses her killers before she passes on and a few days later, her ghost appears wanting revenge and a reunion with her beloved doctor.
The interesting thing about this film is that it doesn't play out in chronological order - it skips around a fair bit and much of the facts of the story appear through some innocuous flashback scenes. It's quite likely that you'll spend much of the film wondering what exactly is happening, and with good reason as this film's structure is anything but typical. While the confusing narrative style may put some viewers off, the film does make considerably more sense during its final third and as such, the pay off redeems the (presumably) intentionally confusing beginning.
The film also plays around with some fun sexual stereotypes as each of the nurses dresses more like a sexually idealized Playboy version of a nurse than the real thing. Each of the nurses in the film is a looker, and most of them use their sex appeal quite specifically. The camera isn't afraid to linger and play this up and the movie compliments the female cast's natural beauty with some fantastic color schemes and pop-art visuals making the film a seriously nifty piece of sexy eye-candy. On top of that, the film also features some pretty creative kill scenes and an impressive amount of grisly gore and fun black humor. The film isn't particularly scary or even really very suspenseful but once it starts moving in a comprehensible direction it is a lot of fun.
Sick Nurses looks pretty good on this colorful 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that presumably presents the film in its original aspect ratio. There's a little more grain and mild print damage than you might expect from more recent film such as this but color reproduction is good and black levels are strong. There aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts and only a tiny bit of edge enhancement is noticeable. Detail varies from scene to scene, some spots look nice and crisp, others are a bit murky but for the most part this is a good effort even if it could have been better. Unfortunately, the transfer is interlaced and if you watch it on a progressive scan set up, the saw-tooth artifacts are really, really, really annoying.
Surprisingly enough, Magnolia has supplied Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and 2.0 Stereo tracks in both the film's original Thai language and in English with optional subtitles supplied in English only. The English tracks aren't particularly good and there's a bit of quirkiness to the high end of that mix thanks to some shrill dubbing but the Thai tracks sound quite good, with the 5.1 mix edging out the 2.0 mix thanks to a more intense aural experience. Rear channels are used to fill in a few scenes and provide some welcome depth and while bass response could have been stronger at times, your subwoofer won't exactly stay quiet either. Not a reference quality track, but a good one that gets the job done.
Aside from a few trailers for unrelated Magnolia DVDs, there's a brief Making Of Sick Nurses (6:01) featurette that is presented in Thai with English subtitles. This isn't a particularly in-depth segment, in fact, it's pretty fluffy, but we do get a few quick interview snippets with the directing team and some of the stars in addition to some behind the scenes clips.
If you don't take it too seriously, Sick Nurses is a lot of candy-coated gory fun. The transfer could have been a little stronger and more extras would have been a nice touch but the presentation is acceptable and the film isn't quite the typical 'long, dark haired creepy female ghost' story that you might initially expect it to be. Recommended for fans of Asian horror, a solid rental for everyone else.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.