Sick Nurses (Suay Laak Sai) Review
Directorial duo Piraphan Laoyont and Thodsapol Siriwiwat bring their Sick Nurses to the operating table, injecting a potent shot of thick, black Thai horror directly into the bloodstream in this exquisitely twisted tale of treachery and revenge.
Now, I can keep the plot fairly simple. Dr Tar is a successful young doctor, whose talents extend beyond that of the medical profession. Not only is he selling his ready supply of corpses to a faceless client, but it also seems that his busy fingers are located in a number of pies amongst his adoring clutch of beautiful young nurses.
When the majority of his female horde bloody their hands by helping him to expedite the latest victim’s transition into a corpse for his murky business dealings, the stage is set for our tale of revenge to unravel before our horrified gaze, a revenge that is executed by an archetypal Far-East-horror-esque figure with long flowing locks cast lop-sided over the face.
Rather than becoming entrenched in the demands of a complex plot, Sick Nurses opts for glorious and unbounded horror hedonism and occasional dark surrealism; the film is essentially a series of increasingly elaborate, imaginative and vividly colourful set-pieces strung together less by the afore-mentioned story, and more by the fickle, shallow, and self-obsessed behaviour of the young, vacuous, flighty nurses, behaviour that is richly exploited by the vengeful spirit. The nature of our egotistical nurses is perhaps best encapsulated by the scene in which the two twins lie curled up on the bed in Piscean pose, photographing one another, and then kissing tenderly, before the camera pans across to a lampshade marked “Narcissus”. Such is the strength of their narcistic urges that the twins are prepared to kiss each other; kissing someone made in their own image is the next best thing to being able to kiss themselves.
The characters are almost exclusively unlikeable, in the traditional sense at least; you certainly shouldn’t identify with their unpleasant examples of bullying, vanity, and selfishness. Yet far from this posing a problem, the girls are all very distinct, bright characters, and when they one-by-one fall victim to their inexorable, inevitable fates, we watch less with a sense of sympathy and sadness, and more with a sense of morbid, voyeuristic fascination, and, dare I say it, fun. OK, so eating razor blades, carving up live bodies with a bone saw, and drowning whilst bound don’t tend to be traditional scenes described as “fun”, but believe me, in Sick Nurses it’s an absolute hoot.
It would be easy to accuse the picture of purloining elements from its Far East horror forebears; the ghost is largely formed in the image of Ring’s Sadako, for example. Yet these influences actually present an affectionate homage to other genre efforts, and are delivered with the same treacle-thick black humour that characterises the rest of the film. When the ghost emerges out of the Designer handbag, for instance, the reference is clear and unashamed.
Sick Nurses is a slickly executed Far East horror that knows exactly what it is and delivers a fast-paced and imaginative series of visually stunning and often horrific set-pieces. The performances are confident and the characterisation substantial, and it seems hard to imagine that we wouldn’t hear from these actresses again; the beautiful Ase Wang, in particular, plays Yim brilliantly, and is surely a name to watch. The strong, contrasting colours and steady stream of dark humour, combined with the refusal to pander to other base elements (the shower scene, for example, uses clothes in favour of nudity) means that this film, whilst not especially frightening, is all about pure, innocent, guilt-free horror fun. And what on Earth is wrong with that?
This release of the 2007 film by Revolver Entertainment is Region 2 encoded. The transfer itself appears to be clear and consistent, and the strong colour depth is essential for the stylish use of vivid colour in different atmospheric scenes in the movie. Blacks don't always seem quite as dark as they could be, although it's hardly discernable and certainly doesn't spoil the impact. There is also an occasional graininess to the picture, but once again, not enough to detract from the quality of the overall presentation.
Subtitles are presented in white, and sensibly include black outlining, so there are no words that disappear into the sometimes white backgrounds. The translation seems fine, and there weren't any noticeable moments of confusion in this area.
You've got the option of 5.1 Surround Sound or Dolby Digital 2.0. Sound is clear and precise, so you'll be able to pick out every shrill scream emitted.
The film score is from the outset somewhat sleazy, but as the film progresses, this choice seems to be further and further vindicated.
The DVD is rather thin on extras. There's the slightly bizarre trailer, which, despite its weirdness, does prove to be an appealing invitation to watch the film. There's also the obligatory "behind the scenes" featurette, which is pleasing in its simplicity; you are afforded a fly-on-the-wall view of some of the key scenes in production, but there is no accompanying narration. For a film that proves so much fun for the viewer, it's something of a surprise to find that most of the actresses look thoroughly miserable during the filming. That said, when you see what Ase Wang had to endure in order to sate your sick horror appetite, you might begin to understand why.
Sick Nurses is an enjoyable bloody romp through a series of creative and visually impressive set-pieces. Its straightforward approach to story-telling and its black comic touch means that it won't appeal to everyone, but with an interesting and unexpected finale, well-paced delivery, and an emphasis on not taking itself too seriously, it stands up tall amongst its Far Eastern counterparts to ensure that Thai horror remains firmly established on the region's movie map.