Sommerleigh Pollonais – Senior Writer
When your name is synonymous with the corruption of power, or more commonly, the battleaxe nurse, you know you’re next level. If you’ve never watched (although you really should) the iconic classic One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, then you may not recognize the name Nurse Ratched. Actress Louise Fletcher won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as the nurse with a heart of stone. Ratched was also named the fifth-greatest villain in movie history and second greatest villainess behind the Wicked Witch of the West. The woman made an impact is what I’m saying folks.
Now in my opinion, the scariest monsters are the ones you know next to nothing about. It’s the reason characters like The Creeper in Jeepers Creepers, The Strangers in…..well, The Strangers and of course DC’s Joker (especially Heath Ledger’s version in The Dark Knight) are so compelling. It always dulls the knife’s edge a bit when they try to give motive to the monster, so I had no clue what to expect with Netflix’s Ratched. But with a cast as strong as this one, the talented creators behind American Horror Story behind the lens, and a character as iconic as Nurse Ratched, there was no way I wasn’t going to give this a look.
So, did they pull it off?
Well…with a mild SPOILER ALERT here are TOP 3 REASONS TO WATCH RATCHED (AND 3 REASONS TO SKIP IT):
#1 Watch: Nods to the Greats
Ryan Murphy’s American Horror story aesthetics are on full display. Ratched is visually stunning to behold. The colour palettes, the costumes, the painstaking eye for the details of every set piece is simply marvelous to behold. And then of course there are the nods to other great films of a similar nature, with moments that invoke memories of Alfred Hitchcock’s work. Movies like Psycho, Spellbound and Notorious. Then of course there’s the parallels to The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal. For instance, tell me you don’t see it, when they take you to the wine cellar, or when you meet a certain sociopathic amputee. If there is one area where Ratched excels, it’s in the eye candy it delivers.
#2 Watch: Sarah Paulson is Cake but That Cast is the Icing
If you’ve never seen any of the American Horror Story seasons, well, I get it, horror isn’t for everyone but boy have you missed out! From a cast of characters brought to life by a slew of talent the likes of Jessica Lange, Angela Bassett, Kathy Bates just to name a few, Sarah Paulson managed to rise to a level that not only matches these talented ladies, but leaves the viewers hungry for more. She was the perfect choice to play Mildred Ratched as she manages to not only match the understated malevolence of Louise Fletcher’s version, but also enhance and add to Ratched’s psyche in a way that made me think of villains like Hannibal Lecter and Thanos. These are the kind of monsters who believe without a doubt, everything they do, is for the betterment of the world. The best villains are the ones you equally empathise with and abhor. In my humble opinion Paulson pulls it off.
The supporting cast is a mixture of talent, most of the faces will be instantly familiar, even if you don’t remember their names (that’s the guy from Ant Man!) but the ones who stole the show for me, every time they popped up, even managing to outshine Ms. Paulson herself at times, were Sharon Stone as Lenore Osgood, a wealthy socialite with a grudge, and Sophie Okonedo as Charlotte Wells, a patient suffering from Split Syndrome. Okay, I made that last one up, its dissociative identity disorder, but you have to admit Split Syndrome sounds so much cooler! These two actresses, especially Mrs. Basic Instinct herself, blew me away and I honestly wish more screen time was devoted to characters such as these.
#3 Watch – When History and Fiction Collide
I’m a fan of history. All types really, but what I find especially intriguing, is the history of medicine and surgery. Ratched doesn’t shy away from the ironically insane ideas doctors came up with back then to treat maladies of the mind. Treatments that fit perfectly into the realm of horror. Lobotomies were used to treat everything, from depression to anything deemed a mental illness. And the guy who invented it won a freaking Nobel Prize if you can believe it. Shock therapy, hydrotherapy and all the other crazy therapies that are shown here actually happened and sadly, a lot of people didn’t survive them.
There’s also a lot of focus on the struggles of homosexuals in this era and the way they were perceived and treated. Real life can be just as horrific, if not more so, than fiction. So props to Ryan Murphy for putting this dark chapter of history on full display, not just for shock value, but to empathize with those who had to live through such dark times.
That was the good stuff folks. Now on to the sucky parts.
#1 Skip: Caricatures Instead of Characters
I stand by what I said earlier – Sarah Paulson was the perfect choice to play Nurse Ratched. She manages to inject humanity and reason into her portrayal, something that we never really see in the film version of this character. And most of the other cast deliver strong performances.
That said, the rest of them are treated like cartoonish after thoughts. Vincent D’Onofrio always makes for fun viewing and his most recent turn as The Kingpin in Daredevil was so damn good, fans are clamouring to get him back in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here, he’s nothing more than an evil politician. No reason, no rhyme, just a cookie-cutter version of what people think most politicians are like. The same can be said for ninety percent of the people shown. Finn Wittrock proved he can be equally sadistic and likeable when he starred in AHS. He played multiple roles over multiple seasons and was memorable in all of them, with my personal favorite being his turn in Season 9, aka American Horror Story: 1984. Here he comes across more like a pretty face killer with Mommy issues and that’s about it.
I truly enjoyed Sharon Stone’s performance as she delivers her lines with a level of glee I don’t think I’ve seen from her since her early roles, but even she suffers from having to play an unbelievably cartoonish version of a wealthy woman with a son akin to Gary Oldman’s character in Hannibal (that is, the movie, not the pitch perfect television show).
It’s a colorful cast of characters but I wish they would’ve spent the same time on developing their personalities as they did in designing the sets they acted on.
#2 Skip: Style Over Substance
Expanding on the performances above, the storylines themselves were all a mish-mash of forgettable moments that stick with you only as long as it takes for the scene to transition. The show itself doesn’t seem to know what kind of tone it wants to strike. Is this Horror? Drama? Comedy or Romance? It jumps from one emotion to another, never taking the time to breathe. Considering we are trying to get into the minds of these people the story would’ve resonated with me more if they picked a couple genres and stuck to them.
#3 Skip: A Mess of Plotlines is Never a Good Thing
This was the biggest problem in my opinion. It wasn’t a matter of too many cooks in the kitchen, but of too much food for me to eat! Nurse Ratched had killed someone, covered it up and had an awkward sexual encounter, all in the first two episodes of the show! Then we have the other plot threads that knotted themselves into the main story, new characters popping up left and right, and nearly every single one of them having their own secrets and messes to add to the mix. While I enjoyed watching Ratched’s machinations as she manipulated her way through these scenarios, I have to admit it was all just too much, and felt way too similar to a cheesy soap opera for me to take it seriously.
So with all that said, what’s my final thoughts on Ratched? Should you even bother watching it? It depends. On one hand, fans of Ryan Murphy’s AHS may find a lot to enjoy here. He doesn’t shy away from the gruesome moments and his eye for the glitz and glamour of the period is beautiful to behold. On the other hand, Ratched is a mess of genre tones and sadly misses the mark on what made the original character so memorable.
In my humble opinion, it would’ve been a better idea to come up with a wholly new character and build this same story around them. Take out the iconography that is associated with Nurse Mildred Ratched and strangely enough, they just might’ve had themselves something special here.
Score: 6 out of 10
So what did you think of Ratched? For my Top 5 Horror Movies That Became Awesome TV Shows you can click here. And for more dramatic television reviews you can like and follow Redmangoreviews on Facebook here.
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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