Not content to rest on his laurels after the “success” of 1987’s SOV non-classic Death Nurse, our good buddy Nick Millard was back the very next year to grace our unworthy screens with Death Nurse 2, and while this, as you’d expect, doesn’t even rise to the level of being a “bad” movie in any conventional definition of the term, never mind a “good” one, it does showcase Millard’s uncanny ability to wring a very little something out of absolutely less than nothing perhaps more than any other of his other productions, which is really saying something if you’ve seen either the first DN flick and/or Criminally Insane 2. I mean, consider the pickle ol’ Nick had left himself in — he only cast his friends and family in his movies since he either couldn’t or didn’t want to actually pay anybody, yet psycho nurse Edith Mortley (Priscilla Alden) had killed everybody except her brother and the cop who shows up at the end in her first go-round as the titular Death Nurse. What’s a no-budget auteur to do, I ask you?
Well, friends, never underestimate the penny-pinching genius of Mr. Millard (or should I say Philips, since he’s working under the “Nick Philips” pseudonym here yet again because he’s recycled the opening credits sequence from the first Criminally Insane flick yet again). He just does what any sixth-grader with a super-8 camera or consumer-grade camcorder would do in his situation — he puts a hat on his wife and gets a new hairstyle for his mom, and presto! They’re both back in the sequel as brand-new characters! And since he covered his face up the whole time he was on screen himself in the original Death Nurse, he can play another character as well and no one’ll be any the wiser. So I have to ask you, my friends — isn’t DN2 worth seeing for the sake of these less-than-convincing switcheroos alone?
If you answered that last question with an “of course it is,” then I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you’re still here reading this, and if your response was “are you kidding? I’m outta here!,” then you’re probably not, so it’s safe to assume at this point that I’ve successfully thinned out my blog “audience” to Millard die-hards only and I can now get down to the business of preaching to an admittedly damn small choir. Our story this time around picks up exactly where the first Death Nurse left off, with a plainclothes detective played by Millard’s step-dad stumbling across — something (we assume it’s Edith’s man-eating rats, but we’re never actually shown this for a fact) in the Shady Palms Clinic’s garage and moving in to bust up the Mortley siblings’ cozy little kill-the-patients-and-keep-collecting-their-Medicare-checks scheme. He’s immediately met at the door by the portly (okay, rotund) figure of the Death Nurse herself wielding a knife, some fake-ass blood gushes out of him, and that’s one less pesky cop to worry about.
Enter one John Sawyer, the new guy down at the county social services office who’s taken the place of Millard’s mom and steers some new clients Gordon (again played by Albert Eskinazi, not that he’s around much this time, about which more in a moment) and Edith’s way, most notably a homeless “bag lady” type named “Brownie” (Millard’s wife Irmi, who played the alcoholic patient last time around and plays an alcoholic patient this time around, as well, albeit in a hat and grungy clothes) and, later, a ranting right-wing lunatic who goes by the name of Mischa (I don’t know the actor’s name since it’s not in the fucking credits !!! — the same goes for the guy playing Sawyer, too, by the way). Edith ends up killing ‘em both and feeding them to her stock-footage rats, of course, but it’s worth noting that Mischa’s death is especially entertaining because he takes a meat cleaver to the neck right after screaming “capitalism is goooooooood!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” at the top of his lungs. Incidentally, when we first meet Mischa we’re informed that he opposes the income tax and that he believes America is becoming a socialist hellhole , so he’s kind of a prototypical Tea Partier in that respect. Nick Millard, you were 20 years ahead of your time with this guy.
Apart from that, not too much of interest happens during the barely-60 minutes that Death Nurse 2 plays out before our undeserving eyes, and that’s really the beauty of it, of course. Priscilla/Edith sleeps on the couch and has flashbacks and/or dreams about the murders in Criminally Insane and Satan’s Black Wedding, thus ensuring that once again we get that totally incongruous break (and it’s most definitely a break — Millard once again just inserts the old footage using no sort of “dissolving” technique whatsoever) from videotape to film and back again and that over a quarter of this movie is nothing but pure, unadulterated run-time padding. We learn explicitly (it was only hinted at last time) that Gordon (who’s laid up in bed “injured” for most of this movie, giving Millard the chance to use the exact same shot of him over and over again) and Edith aren’t real practitioners of medicine at all but med school and nurse’s training dropouts, respectively, and that Edith is most definitely feeding rat meat to the patients in her care after the rats have done their duty and gobbled up the evidence of previous, and now deceased, Shady Palms “guests” (again, this was only vaguely alluded to in the original). About the only “surprise” that transpires is when Millard’s mother, Frances, pops back up as the identical twin sister of the Faith Chandler character who was murdered in the previous Death Nurse flick (spoting that different hairstyle I mentioned earlier to prevent too much confusion, as if there would be any — oh, and her name here’s Hope, so all that’s missing is Charity) — insert a couple minutes’ worth of “flashback” footage re-showing sis number one’s demise — and is determined to get to the bottom of her sibling’s untimely disappearance. She conducts a half-assed stakeout senior-citizen style and is, of course, eventually murdered for her troubles.
The entire Mortley family enterprise is brought to a screeching halt, though, when one detective Gallagher (Millard himself) shows up at the door with a search warrant and informs Edith that a couple of her beloved pet rats escaped from the garage of Nick’s Pacifica, California condo — I mean, Shady Palms Clinic — and were dragging human remains of some sort with them. Gordon stays upstairs in bed, where he’s spent more or less the rest of the movie, and Edith calmly plops down on the couch and nonchalantly awaits her fate. So basically it ends just like the first Death Nurse did, only this time our murder-for-cash protagonists are in separate rooms rather than sitting next to each other on the same sofa. You’ve gotta appreciate the subtle little differences to fully grasp the awesomeness that is Death Nurse 2, friends (and for the time being you’ve gotta have a VCR, as well, since this isn’t available on DVD yet — I’m hoping Jesus Teran over at Slasher Video will change that sometime in the not-too-distant future, but for now it’s the Video City Productions VHS tape or bust).
We all know that there really is nothing new under the sun, but few movies drive that point home as relentlessly as Death Nurse 2. It might have been made a full year down the road after the first one, but it feels for all the world like it was shot the very next day — hell, maybe even later the same day. And I guess that’s what I love most about it. This is quite likely the most blatant, no-bones-about-it, complete waste of time every put together by anyone for any reason, yet it never manages to be outright boring even though any rational analysis dictates that it certainly should be. Granted, the story isn’t at all involving, the “acting” is atrocious (even the usually-reliable-in-her-own-singular-way Alden seems to be sleepwalking through this one), the blood and gore are laughably amateurish in the extreme, and the very notion “production values” is flat-out alien to the proceedings. But that’s not why you watch movies from Nick Millard’s late-80s SOV period. No, you watch them for one reason and one reason alone — to see just how deeply into his bag of tricks he can reach in his quest to fill up 60 minutes of Sony Betacam tape with only his wife, his mom, his stepdad, and a couple of friends to help him out.