Monday, June 18, 2007

Review: Sick Nurses

  • Directed by Piraphan Laoyont and Thodsapol Siriwiwat
  • Starring Chol Wachananont, Chidjun Rujiphan, Ase Hui Min Wang, Doloros Dechapratumwon, Kanya Rattanapetch and Ampairat and Ampaiwan Techapoowapat
  • Released in Thailand cinemas on June 14, 2007
  • Rating: 2/5
Six sexy, naughty, bitchy nurses, and one dumb doctor get what’s coming to them, one by one, in Sahamongkol Film International's latest ghost thriller, Sick Nurses.

Directed by Piraphan Laoyont and Thodsapol Siriwiwat, the writer-director team behind Suicide Me, Sick Nurses is a bloody, confusing, misogynistic mess from start to finish.

There’s not a single character that is worth rooting for – every one of them you want to see meet their end in the most violent, horrible way. Credit is due the directors for making this happen, most of the time. There is humor, fitfully, although it seems out of place, but in this type of film, you have to take what you can get.

Set in a run-down, isolated hospital, it seems young Dr. Tar (Wid Charu-jinda) and seven nurses have been running a scheme to sell dead bodies on the black market. But one nurse (Chol Wachananont) thinks the whole thing stinks, and is ready to blow the whistle. So the other six nurses gang up on her, slap her down on an operating table, kill her and then wrap her in a black, plastic garbage bag. They then dump her in the trunk of the doctor’s car, where the corpse will be kept on dry ice until it can be sold.

The storyline jumps around, doing some nonsensical flashbacks and flash forwards. The flashbacks establish the characters – Chol was the doctor’s girlfriend, but so was her coquettish sister (Chidjun Rujiphan). The other girls all have their own sick obsessions. There’s a fitness freak (Ase Hui Min Wang), a bulimic (Doloros Dechapratumwon), a fashion slave (Kanya Rattanapetch) and a pair of phone-camera-snapping twin sister-lesbian lovers (Ampairat and Ampaiwan Techapoowapat). And it turns out that Dr Tar had been having flings with all the women, though he also has another big secret to hide.

Jump ahead seven days, and the ghost of Chol, draped head-to-toe in black, has returned, and must bond with her lover and take revenge on her death before midnight, or something like that. The deaths of the six are all pretty spectacular, and prey on the suffocating vanity and cuteness of their characters.

Doloros’ demise is the best – she is forced to eat a handful of scalpel blades, then her jaw drops off and her tongue falls out. Her pet cat, on which she has transferred her eating disorder, then eats her tongue. Then, a fetus from a jar flies into her throat, choking her. Not much else in the film tops that scene, except maybe for a giant red cross falling off the front hospital building and spinning across the lawn, where it is supposed to flatten Chidjun.

Kanya has a handbag sewn to her head, so that when her shadow appears behind a screen, the handles of the handbag made her look like a killer Teletubby. That was one of the funny bits.

However, before the opening credits even roll, the big question all this begs is: How did this film get released? The entire premise, based on a bunch of murderous medical professionals, should have got the film shelved by the Board of Censorship, which took a dim view of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Syndromes and a Century. In that film, some friendly, hard-working doctors take a break to drink some whisky, and a male doctor meets his girlfriend in his office, kisses her passionately, and gets an erection. These are real, everyday depictions. Those scenes weren’t fit to be seen by innocent Thai eyes, the board ruled. However, a doctor and nurse going at it on a morgue table, or a nurse sitting on a toilet with just her panties to block her nether region, or obviously insane doctors and nurses engaged in criminal activities – that’s okay?

Maybe Sahamongkol Film, the producer of Sick Nurses and dozens of other films that depict monks, doctors and teachers in what are likely objectionable situations, holds some influence over the Board of Censorship, while independent, award-winning filmmaker Apichatpong does not? There is a double standard, plain and simple.

The point is, though, there shouldn’t be any censorship of films in the first place – even if, in the case of Sick Nurses – they aren’t really fit to be seen by general audiences. But it should be the audience's right to choose, not some fascist policeman or narrow-minded culture ministry nanny wielding scissors and petroleum jelly.

(Originally published in The Nation, Life section, June 18, 2007)

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