Welcome to Twilight Zone Central Hospital. From the first few moments, it’s clear that this isn’t going to be your average horror film set in your average hospital. The staff haven’t been paid, nurses are quitting in droves, everyone’s working extended shifts and then some, the hospital’s buying new equipment but not technical staff to operate it, and the director’s apparently headed off to parts unknown. Put that together with corridors that look like the typical spooky basement set, complete with overhead pipes and dim lighting, plus several disturbing patients, and leaven it with a hospital staff with enough problems to last Oprah for a year, and you get a surprisingly good film.
The small cast gives the feel of a stage play, which exacerbates the unreality of the whole affair. In addition, the characters are painted in broad strokes: no subtleties here. We’ve got Big Nurse, Nurse Screamer, and Nurse Nasty donning the starched whites, while the doctoring professions are represented by Doctor Harried, Doctor Desperate, Doctor Wanna-be, and Doctor Complete Bastard. Only two of the doctors converse amiably, while the rest of the staff bicker and snipe and snivel.
The description of the infection, something that liquefies organs, made me think instantly of ebola. I once read The Hot Zone, which gave me nightmares for weeks afterwards, so I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch this. But I sat myself down, doing my Heroic duty, and pretty soon I was hooked. Yes, I predicted the occasional “Look behind youuuuuuu!” pantomime moment. And yes, the bright green goo simulating liquified organs was cheap and over-used. But this film, for me, captured that disturbing feeling of wrongness that made The Twilight Zone so popular.
From my description, you might be thinking “Ugh, sounds dreadful, I’ll give it a miss”. But if you do, you’ll miss a good old-fashioned suspense thriller. There’s nothing ground-breaking here, but there doesn’t really need to be: all the elements of a classic disturbing suspense flick are here for your delectation. And while the performances might look overwrought to begin with, you’ll soon settle in and feel just as uneasy as the staff.