Released by: Massacre Video
Released on: October 11th, 2016.
Director: Peter Romeo Lambert
Cast: Heather Marie Vernon, Nati Amos, Christopher Cassidy, Happy Dave, Louis Perchikoff
Year: 2016 Purchase From Amazon
Written and directed by Peter Romeo Lambert, Nurse Jill takes place in Chicago and centers around a woman named Jill Danvers. She doesn’t mind staying late to help out some clients these days because she’s just broken up with her man and is, in a word, lonely – even if she has heard that there’s a rapist on the loose. When she takes the train home one night she meets a pretty woman on the platform. They strike up a conversation and agree to get drinks one night, unaware that they’ve been watched by a man in a strange rubber mask. They go their separate ways at the end of the night, but Jill’s been followed.
Jill’s damaged goods. She talks to a shrink about how it took her three hours to get home from the park one night, even though she only lives a block away. She gets lost easily and seems to be frequently and easily confused. When she leaves the session she pays no mind to the young man in the waiting room. Later, when Jill hears someone come into her home, she takes a knife to defend herself. She attacks, but it isn’t who she thinks it is. From there the movie goes from a semi-standard slasher film to a John Waters-esque tale of a fucked up family. Here ‘Jill 2’ is played by Nati Amos, an artist born with a facial disfigurement (according to the commentary). She has a vulnerability about her that makes her appear fragile, so when she’s abused by other ‘family’ members, it’s all the more unsettling.
After that, we get back to the core of the plot as Jill has to deal with the repercussions of her actions while still trying to figure out who is following her, why she’s being followed and, ultimately, what she should do about it.
This seventy-five minute low budget picture is as much an art film as it is a slasher picture or an exploitation film, but it doesn’t lack in sex, violence or shock value. The film has a strange dream-like quality to it thanks to some intentionally hazy and odd framing employed behind the camera, but it works. This is actually a very impressive film when it comes to the visuals, opting for quirky angles and natural lighting in place of more traditional framing. A scene that takes place in a park is a good example – most films would keep anything between the camera and the performers out of the frame but here we get a leave protruding from under the frame poking into the picture and giving the shot a bit more of a naturalist slant. There are a lot of little details like this throughout the movie that you notice as the film plays out.
It’s also worth noting that this is, for all intents and purposes, a silent movie. Dialogue is uttered by the performers but we never hear any of it. Instead the film uses intertitles and an effectively unsettling instrumental soundtrack. It’s an odd choice in this day and age, but again, it works in the context of the story and just as importantly it jives with the visuals quite nicely.
As far as the performances go, they’re all over the place. There are some bit part players here, particularly in the middle stretch, that overdo it bit but that would seem to be in keeping with the direction that the story goes during this portion – which is completely over the top. Nati Amos definitely deserves a mention for her performance as she’s completely convincing here and is a good casting choice for the part. Heather Marie Vernon in the lead also makes an impression. Sometimes she looks quite stern faced other times she has an unorthodox beauty about her but she’s never short on screen presence, particularly in the film’s finale where she puts on her uniform and decides to take care of business once and for all.
Not short on sex or violence, Nurse Jill is a strange movie. The pacing is odd, the story throws large dollops of surrealism into the mix when you don’t expect it, and it doesn’t really adhere to the rules or conventions of any one particular genre. It is, however, a compelling picture worth seeing.
Nurse Jill was shot on 16mm film stock so expect its AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer, framed at 1.66.1 widescreen, to look pretty grainy. There’s also some minor print damage here as well, which specks and what not rather than massive scratches or anything too grisly. Detail is pretty solid here, though sometimes the cinematography takes an intentionally dreamy tone and when that occurs, the picture is meant to look soft – and it does. Really though, no real issues here. It would seem that this is a nice representation of the source material and how the filmmakers behind the movie wanted the movie to look. There are no issues with noise reduction, edge enhancement nor is there any crush. Minor compression artifacts do pop up in spots and detail will vary depending on the lighting and the locations being used but all in all, things look nice here.
The English language LPCM 2.0 audio is also of good quality. There’s no audible dialogue in the film, so the only thing to really evaluate here is the music and it sounds nice. The levels are nicely balanced, there’s decent range and good presence. There are no issues with any hiss or distortion and the silent movie style intertitles used to compensate for the lack of audible dialogue are easy to read and free of any typos.
The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary director Peter Romero Lambert and cinematographer Joe Rubin. This is a pretty lively track with a lot of focus on where the actors came from (most of them seem to have a connection to Chicago movie rental store Odd Obsession Video), how all involved knew one another and why various participants were cast in their roles. Additionally Lambert explains why the movie is essentially a silent film, when and where the movie was shot, why it took so long to finish and a fair bit more. Rubin chimes in just as often, talking about certain shot set ups, noting that they only had one light to work with during the shoot, how parts were shot in his own apartment and other assorted bits and pieces. There’s lots of discussion here delivered at a lively pace and sometimes with a good sense of humor as well.
Also included on the disc is Knife In The Eye - The Making of Nurse Jill, which is a twenty minute behind the scenes piece that shows off various sets and locations being used over the duration of the shoot. We also get to see Heather Marie Vernon and a few of the other actors out of character, the crew working on various aspects of the production and more.
Outside of that we get a deleted scene called Teddy's Guest House that ties into part of the film in a rather twisted, fetish way, a trailer for the feature, a trailer for the upcoming sequel, a trailer for Six Pack That Bitch, animated menus and chapter selection.
The Final Word:
Nurse Jill is a strangely compelling film, a movie that willingly plows head first into arthouse territory while still adhering to the aesthetic of the vintage low budget exploitation films that clearly inspired it. The lead performance from Heather Marie Vernon is impressive even if some of the supporting parts aren’t quite as strong, while the visuals are solid throughout. The Blu-ray presentation is a good one, offering up a very film-like picture with fine audio and some good extras highlighted by an interesting commentary track. Not a film for all tastes, of course, but those with an affinity for low budget oddities and trippy psycho-sexual hijinks should definitely appreciate what Lambert and company have accomplished here.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!