Welcome to Cult Corner where we dive through the bargain bins to determine if a movie is trash or treasure. Today’s pick… Kate Robbins’ Candy Stripers.
Candy Stripers begins with a blind girl taken into the ER after surviving a car crash. Unfortunately for everyone around, she’s not all that she appears to be and before dying passes an alien infection on to one of the nurses. It spreads like wildfire from there, and soon all of the nurses have been taken over. From there, the hospital staff begins to pick off men throughout the institution.
Yes, it’s that kind of movie. The alien nurses spread the infection by making out with non-infected nurses which is actually not as hot as it sounds. When a tentacle thrusts out of one girl’s mouths and into the other’s it’s just kind of gross. Of course, they also pick off men by seducing them. It’s a bit hard to tell exactly what happens since they tend to just show the man scream, play an alien screech noise, and then cut away. Follow that by the man popping up in a cocoon.
While these shenanigans are going on the movie also checks in with a group of basketball players that had been taken to the ER after a fight broke out at their game. They’re your classic high schoolers played by 30-somethings. There’s the quintessential team captain Ken doll, his bimbo girlfriend, his horny comic relief best friend, the best friend’s tomboy sister who is secretly in love with him, and the other guy. I call this last person simply “other guy,” because that’s about as much personality as he shows. They made a pretty poor decision to have him be in another hospital room for most of the movie, while they centered around Ken doll and horny best friend. This gave us absolutely no time to really get to know other guy. They did the same with the bimbo girlfriend, but she leaves such an annoying impression in the few early scenes she shows up in that it was enough.
Each one of the characters fits into an archetype. The tomboy girl (who’s actually a knockout but they dress down to make her seem less attractive) is probably the best performance in the movie. There’s something endearing about her.
Another thing this movie has going for it is a relatively quick pace after the opening. The beginning does drag a bit but there’s a turning point when the characters try to leave the hospital and from there on out the movie doesn’t linger on any one scene for too long. They discover that the entire hospital has been completely taken over and it becomes a battle for survival where they’re always in danger, as opposed to the nurses occasionally picking men off here and there stealthily like they did at the beginning. I liked this turn of events.
Unfortunately, Candy Stripers just doesn’t have the budget to pull off everything it wants to be. The way that they show the hospital has been taken over is by hanging dollar store Halloween cobwebs from the ceiling and occasionally changing the lighting to red. The hospital sets still looks way too pristine and spotless in spite of all this. They’re trying to make the sets look devastated, but they just look like they’re having a Halloween party. There are also a lot of moments where it seems like they cut away instead of having to put in some kind of special effect, which makes things confusing. The effects and gore that we do get towards the second half are not entirely bad though.
The other major downside is that we never get a good idea of what the aliens want or how they work. Sometimes they cocoon guys and other times they kill them outright. Why? Why are they cocooning people and how? We never actually see them do so because it cuts away. The cobwebs also seem to infect people as one of the characters is infected for most of the movie but that’s never explained. It was actually a bit of an interesting twist with that character but it’s never explored. There’s a baby alien at one point but again it’s never explained. I left this movie with absolutely no understanding of who these creatures were. In fact, the infected guy would have been a perfect opportunity to find some intel on them, since he did seem to know bits and pieces. Oh well.
All in all Candy Stripers is… ok. It falls into the uncomfortable middle ground where it’s not good enough to be good, but it’s not bad enough to be funny. The script isn’t bad. The characters have some degree of personality and it’s got a quick pace, but it needed maybe another draft to explain the aliens better and definitely a few more dollars to polish things off. Kate Robbins shows some potential in the director’s chair, but I don’t think this quite hits the mark. It’s her only directing credit to date but I’d honestly like to see more. As it stands I say this can be skipped.
Here at Cult Corner we cover the weird and obscure. Given the low budget that these movies often have we feel the need to recognize that entertainment value and quality aren’t always synonymous. That’s why we have opted for the “trash or treasure” approach in lieu of a typical rating system. After all, Troll 2 is incredibly entertaining but it’s no 8 out of 10.