Friday, October 6, 2017

Halloween Havoc: INTENSIVE CARE (1991)

Even to an American that is not enthralled by the Hollywood system and lives on a steady diet of foreign exploitation films, the Dutch are pretty hit and miss. Matter of fact when it comes to horror movies, you can lump the whole of Scandinavia in there. They clearly like watching horror films, but when it comes to making them, they just seem to miss the boat. Don't get me wrong, they have a ticket and are standing on the pier, but the ship has sailed. Case in point: INTENSIVE CARE.

Allegedly set in America (where everyone speaks Dutch), a surgeon, Dr. Bruckner (George Kennedy) flips out in the operating room when one of his assistants questions his approach. Bruckner stabs the patient twice and storms off to his office. Just to make his day worse, his boss intrudes to - no, not fire his crazy ass for stabbing a patient in the OR - but to inform him that his request for a grant has been denied.

Bruckner had been working on an experiment to help comatose patients via shock therapy and brain transplants. Sounds perfectly reasonable, right? How could that go wrong? Enraged that his genius is being denied, Bruckner drives angry on a country road. Why is he suddenly on a country road? My guess is that is the only place the state of Washington (or so say his vehicle plates) would let the filmmakers blow up a gas tanker. Yep, Bruckner plows into the gas tanker resulting in a massive explosion that, in a stroke of irony, leaves the badly burned doctor in... yes, a coma.


Seven years later, still comatose in the very same hospital where he was so badly snubbed, a couple of Euro douche-bag male nurses (who are drinking white wine in stem glasses on the job) decide to put goofy cartoon animal masks on all of the patients in the coma ward. The coma ward is, of course, simply a few rows of beds with no monitors or life-support machines of any kind. Remind me never to check into this place. One of our douche-bags, Peter (Koen Wauters), thinks it will be funny to send the female nurse Anna into the ward by herself while all the patients are wearing masks. Hi-larious, amiright? The strangely terrified nurse suddenly has a reason to be scared as Dr. Bruckner decides that this is the moment to return to the land of the living and wreak his revenge. Unfortunately, it is also Peter's quitting time, which means we are stuck with this immature dumb-ass for the rest of the movie.

Following the tried and true formula of American slasher films, all three of the credited screenwriters manage to mess all of this up by having the doctor lurking around outside of the houses of three characters for most of the movie. Peter is obsessed with the girl next door, Amy (Nada van Nie) who has broken things off with him to see the wimpiest leather-boy ever, Ted (Dick van den Toorn), all of whom live in the same block. Peter, when not being an obnoxious twat, plays the saxophone... to his cat Dennis. Seriously, I couldn't make that up. Finally after spying on Amy and Ted with binoculars, he sees that they are fighting and he can move in on Amy again.

After inviting himself over to Amy's house to pick her up on the rebound, Peter and Amy make sweet, sweet music together. Literally. Peter plays the sax, Amy plays guitar and her little brother Bob plays the piano. Uhhhh, wasn't there a horribly burned, deranged killer on the loose?

This is genuinely the first hour of the movie. Peter constantly bitching that Amy doesn't want him "like that" and Amy sending mixed signals and poor Bob is just trying to stay above it all. After slapping around Ted (who is supposed to be a motorcycle riding badass, but doesn't even try to kick the shit out of the stick-figure Peter), Peter decides that the best way to get Amy's affections is to force her to kiss him and rip her top open. Just like in real life, this works like a charm and suddenly Amy's anger turns to hot monkey lov - err, well a brief hump on the bedroom floor. Seriously, there is a psycho killer in this movie, right?

Because Peter is a douche, he ruins the moment by again being a whiny dick and stomps off to his house to watch TV while sulking in his frilly silk bed. The news runs a live story about a massacre of three people (now you know this ain't America) in the hospital and just as Peter is starting to think that this news might be slightly alarming, Dr. Bruckner jumps out of his closet and stabs him repeatedly with a large scalpel. Yay! Or not, as (*spoiler*) Peter is not quite dead. Booo!

Fortunately for the viewers that have made it through an hour of this infantile bullshit, the movie kicks into gear, albeit a low one, as Bruckner kills cops and stalks Amy in her house and, for some reason, out in the woods presumably next to her house. To be fair, once into the final 15 minutes of the film, we get Amy and Bob desperately trying to fend off Bruckner with guns, knives, a power drill and even (*spoiler*) commercial fireworks that Peter just so happens to have in his backpack!

While this movie conspires to truly test the patience of even the most die hard slasher fan, first time director, Dorna van Rouveroy, does manage some atmospheric and stylish camerawork when she feels like it. As the daughter of a cinematographer that should be expected, but unfortunately she frequently gets lazy and simply nails the camera in place resulting in either bland or ridiculous scenes. Ridiculous, as in the scene where after stabbing Peter, the horribly mangled and deranged Dr. Bruckner decides to sit on the edge of Peter's rather effeminate bed and watch the news story about the hospital "massacre". This is essentially a head shot of Bruckner who is reacting to the story while roaring like a lion (no, really) every time someone takes a potshot at his beloved coma experiments. Like many scenes in the movie, this could have been just a quick bit where Bruckner catches a couple of lines from the TV before marching over to Amy's house, but instead is dragged out far longer than it should have been.

Considering the short running time of just over 71 minutes (the IMDb lists 91 minutes, but that is incorrect), it shouldn't feel as if one of the writers was tasked with padding the film out to barely feature length. They could have easily added some scenes with George Kennedy actually doing his unethical experiments, but I guess that would raise his fee. Once Bruckner goes ka-blooey, Kennedy is not needed anymore, which probably explains why he's so grumpy. They could have also shown the hospital rampage as the movie seems to be in a big hurry to get out of the hospital and start shooting in the main character's houses. Once again, I'm guessing scenes of petty arguing are cheaper.

While I haven't seen the other five films that make up van Rouveroy's directorial career, it appears that she moved on to dramas, which is clearly where her severed heart lies. As it is, INTENSIVE CARE is a minor curiosity with some solid moments.

Moments of Clarity:

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