Edith Gets Sloppy

Dennis Nilsen killed fifteen young men. He reasoned that he did so out of loneliness, but we’ll never really know why. His favorite thing to do was bathe his victims’ bodies and lay next to them naked, fantasizing that he was dead too. He kept them under his floorboards, and burned them when they started to smell. Toward the end of his murder spree, Nilsen moved and no longer had access to a backyard to burn them, so he took to cutting them up and flushing the parts down his toilet. Killing people is never wise to begin with, but that’s just plain stupid. His plumbing inevitably stopped working. The hardest part to believe is what he did next… wrote a strongly worded letter to his landlord insisting that his plumbing be fixed. The serviceman who responded found bones and hunks of human flesh in the manhole beside Nilsen’s flat. He set them on a ledge and made what I’m sure was an awkward call to his supervisor. Nilsen played dumb. He suggested that someone had flushed their Kentucky Fried Chicken. Then, after everyone left, and before detectives arrived the next morning, he climbed in and removed the material himself, which only aroused more suspicion. He died a few months ago, having served over 35 years in prison.

Like a handsomer Stephen King.

The self-professed BTK killer, Dennis Rader, would have gone to his grave unidentified if it weren’t for his ego. He strangled, asphyxiated, and stabbed ten people from 1974 to 1991, then dropped off the radar completely, “sleeping” for thirteen long years while he raised a family and worked 9 to 5 as a code enforcer. He never stopped craving attention, though, and emerged from the shadows in 2004 to play games with police. During this time, he asked if his whereabouts could be traced from a floppy disk. The cops lied and said no. He took the people whose job it was to arrest him at their word and sent one to a local TV station. The disk was traced to his church; it contained data that said something to the effect of “last modified by: Dennis”. He was picked up in pretty short order. He’s serving 175 years in prison.

One of WWE’s most controversial storylines.

My point is that bad people who do stupid things usually reap what they sow, especially when their names are Dennis.

Edith Mortley from the Death Nurse duology conforms to this paradigm and gives those two nincompoop killers a run for their money. She’s gotta be a contender for stupidest slasher villain in horror movie history.

Her motive is simple — cheddar. I don’t mean cheese. She’s an insurance scammer. Her and her mad doctor brother run an all-purpose medical center called Shady Palms Clinic out of their home. Edith stabs to death everyone who shows up within hours of their arrival, then bills their insurance for months of imaginary treatment. She’s mindful enough not to overcharge the insurance companies (for example, she only charges $2,750 for a $4,000 “surgery”), but her hobby gets away from her in a hurry. She kills a county social worker, a health inspector and a police lieutenant (the latter on her porch in broad daylight) to cover up what she’s done. These are the kinds of people who raise flags when they’re missing. And they do. Other people come looking for them. Edith’s alibi? It’s a good one. She advised her patients to move to Arizona, as if anyone could or would pick up and move on a whim cos a random nurse told them to.

You’re right, all that dry air and sun will be good for my health. I have tens of thousands of dollars stashed away, and a job won’t be that hard to find. I’ll do it.

I should have planned this out better.
Credit: Death Nurse 2, Slasher // Video DVD

She never really comes up with an alibi for the other victims. Her biggest mistake is feeding the diced-up cadavers to her pet rats Harold and Desmond, who she allows to roam freely, uncaged, in her home. The rats (or “longtails” as she affectionately refers to them) come and go from the house and in doing so scatter bloody bits of remains across the front lawn. A second police officer, this time a sergeant, has the bits analyzed and returns to arrest the sociopathic siblings. Even though he’s alone, they go without a fight. Game over.

I’m struggling to think of another slasher villain who brings about their undoing in a more brainless way. Can you think of any? What about real-life killers? Leave a comment below.

I love Death Nurse Parts 1 & 2. I still revisit them every so often. There’s always something new to pick up on or contemplate. It looks like they’re out of print now. Grab your copies from Ebay or wherever else you can before they start going for ungodly prices.

Credit: Facebook

Edith Repeats Herself

Concepts are often repeated in movies to clarify an idea, stress the significance of something, or because it’s cool or dramatic. A staple of the Hellraiser series is that Pinhead and his gang of Cenobites are almost always preceded by the sight of a brilliant, blue haze spilling through slatted wood. In Blood Feast 2, a snippet of a Butthole Surfers song (“Sweat Loaf”) that goes “Satan! Satan! Satan!” plays every time the hoity-toity mom walks on screen.

For me, repetition is most effective when used as a plot device to bring everything full circle by connecting the beginning and end of a story somehow. Dario Argento is a bona fide master of this.

There are moments, though, when an instance of repetition serves no purpose at all. And that’s the case in Nick Millard’s Death Nurse. Edith the Death Nurse repeats not one, but two lines of dialogue back to back for what seems like no reason.

She does this for the first time at around the forty-five minute mark.

Septuagenarian social worker and patient Faith Chandler sneaks down the stairs of the Shady Palms Clinic in search of her two missing clients, who are also patients (oh, and unbeknownst to her, long-deceased).

Edith heads her off with an icy look. “Get back in bed, you nosy old bitch.”

“If you don’t take me to Mr. Davis and Mr. Bedowski, I’ll call social services.”

Edith repeats herself. “Get back in bed, you nosy old bitch.”

“All right, I’m going to phone.”

Usually, when people repeat themselves, they preface it with an “I said…” or “Didn’t you hear me?” Not Edith. She doesn’t roll that way. Below is an oscillating comparison of the first frames of each utterance, proving they were in fact from two different takes.

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Why does it matter? Well, if auteur Nick Millard had used one take twice, I would have thought, ok, maybe this guy forgot to film some other line of dialogue and was forced to reuse it. Knowing he had the foresight, however, to shoot the same sentence two different times leads me to believe he intended the conversation to play out as awkwardly and nonsensically as it did from the get-go.

The worst part is that Edith’s approach doesn’t work. It was all for naught. Faith Chandler ignores her and has to be stabbed to be silenced. I can’t help but wonder, would Edith’s tactics have been more successful in other movie situations?

Credit: Death Nurse, Slasher // Video DVD The Exorcist, Warner Bros. DVD

Credit: Death Nurse, Slasher // Video DVD
The Exorcist, Warner Bros. DVD

Edith repeats herself for a second time at around the fifty-six minute mark.

At that point, she peeks through her living room blinds to see a policeman snooping outside her garage. “Son of a bitch.” she remarks, tiptoeing the “son of a”, punching the “bitch”. The policeman walks up her drive to the front door. “Son of a bitch.” she repeats in the same exact tone of voice.

This wasn't Ms. Alden's most flattering angle. Credit: Slasher // Video DVD

This wasn’t Ms. Alden’s most flattering angle.
Credit: Slasher // Video DVD

As hilarious as it is, what’s the significance? Why were these lines so important that Mr. Millard felt the need to repeat them? Is there even a rhyme or reason to his mad genius? All I know is that I could revisit these scenes a thousand times each and they’d still crack me up. Maybe that’s what Millard was going for.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about Death Nurse, and it probably won’t be the last. The deeper I dig, the more I find, and the farther I stray from reality. Investigating one of this movie’s mysteries leads to another. Questions are only answered with more questions. Nothing adds up.

Has anyone out there seen this? What are your favorite moments from Death Nurse or its equally madcap sequel?

Who Ate the Fourth Plate of Dog Food?

Let me take you back to a movie I wrote about earlier this year and a moment within that movie I failed to mention back then, a moment that still has me scratching my head. The movie is Nick Millard’s Criminally Insane II, the 1/100th-the-budget SOV sequel to his minor cult classic Criminally Insane. The moment comes just over twenty-five minutes in.

Context: The movie takes place in a halfway house for recovering mental patients. The woman who runs the place has stepped out for some unaddressed reason and left a scummy young staff member in charge. In proving how much of a slimeball he is, this staff member serves canned dog food to the patients for dinner, then lies and tells them it’s corned beef hash.

This shot lasts for two whole minutes... Credit: Retro Shock-O-Rama Cinema DVD

This shot lasts for two whole minutes…
Credit: Retro Shock-O-Rama Cinema DVD

Now, there are only three patients. What I hadn’t noticed my first or even second time through this affair is that the guy prepares four plates of dog food. This brings an obvious question to mind: who was the last plate of dog food for, and who ate it?

...and contains three zooms. Credit: Retro Shock-O-Rama Cinema DVD

…and contains three zooms.
Credit: Retro Shock-O-Rama Cinema DVD

Logic dictates the Beagle-like dog that appears in the background of (I think) two scenes. But there’s only one problem with this. The dog is never addressed, interacted with, or acknowledged in any way as existing. No one pets it or even looks at it.

In other words, the dog appears to have made the flick by sheer accident (or, more likely, out of unwillingness to re-shoot the scenes it walked in on). For this reason, I feel we can safely eliminate it from the equation. I also feel that if there were a storyline dog, the patients would have noticed its food looked and smelled exactly like theirs, and there would have been some kind of kerfuffle.

Focus then shifts to the scumbag. He was, after all, the only other person around at the time. But if he’s the culprit, this begs another obvious question: why would he serve himself dog food? Certainly not for the taste, I would hope. I admit to having tried dog kibble several times in the past out of sheer curiosity before I went vegetarian, and every time I did, it was terrible. Like asshole meat cut with sawdust (err, what I imagine that combo would taste like). I feel bad even giving it to my own dog, and he grew up in a crack house where he probably wasn’t fed very often at all.

As much as I want them to, neither possibility — the dog or the scumbag — adds up for me. This leaves me wondering: was the whole thing a production goof? To get to the bottom of this, I decided to head to the source and harass ask Nick Millard himself with a phony Facebook profile I slapped together specifically for this purpose.

Phony Profile

Sadly, he never responded. I assume he was either put off by the not-at-all-real-sounding name or was too busy re-posting his own posts (he does this) in all-caps stream of consciousness like a true old guy. As hard as it is to believe, I must now come to grips with the fact that I’ll probably never know the answer to the very important question of who ate the fourth plate of dog food in Criminally Insane II. B-movie watchers like myself will just have to keep wondering. The mystery lives on. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

So, have you seen this? Do you have a theory, or am I making mountains out of mole hills?

-Gentry VanZanzibar

UPDATE (8/31/16) — Nick Millard writes:

THERE IS THE GUY FROM KAFKA’S METAMORPHOSIS, GREGOR SAMSA, WHO THINKS THAT HE IS A ROACH… THERE IS ALBERT, A MAINSTAY IN IRMI FILMS… ALBERT ESKINAZI. HE COULD USE A LITTLE FAN SUPPORT AT THE MOMENT… THERE IS OF COURSE OUR BIGGEST STAR ON THE IRMI FILMS LOT… PRISCILLA ALDEN… AND A SMALLER ROLE… A MYSTERY ROLE… BEST, NICK

His cryptic reply doesn’t answer my question. What it does answer is why patient Greg eats dead flies and walks his hands up and down the air like he’s playing an invisible piano. Greg was apparently based upon Franz Kafka’s character from The Metamorphosis, who woke up one day as an insect-like creature. The “Irmi Films” Nick refers to is the production company he and his wife run.