Patrick *** (out of five)
Mark Hartley knows, and loves, movies, and particularly genre movies. His two documentaries Not Quite Hollywood and Machete Maidens Unleashed! show this in spades. Both are thoroughly – indeed deliriously – entertaining and guaranteed to teach almost any geek on the planet a thing or two.
It’s quite a perfect match, then, for Hartley’s debut fiction feature to be a remake of Australian horror “classic” Patrick (1978). Lurid and fun, the original Patrick, directed by Richard Franklin, featured a comatose man in a dodgy private hospital who develops telekinetic powers as he falls for a new nurse. Mayhem ensues.
Hartley’s remake is extremely faithful to the original, and what is most fun about it is the style and tone. The first act is extremely enjoyable, featuring a suitably haunted-house like hospital (constantly covered by the most forbidding skies of the year, if not of many years), fruity, genre-inflected performances by Charles Dance and Rachel Griffiths as the lead Doctor and lead nurse of the institution, and, most strikingly, evocatively and nostalgically, an original score by none other than Pino Donaggio (Seed of Chucky, Raising Cain, Body Double, Blow Out, The Fan, Dressed to Kill, Piranha, Carrie (the original) and Don’t Look Know – along with 184 other credits!) More than anything, Donaggio’s bold, over-the-top, old-school horror score reminds us that we are in an homage, and to enjoy the ride as such. The more horror films you’ve seen from the 70s, the more the first half hour or so will tickle your fancy, and perhaps, as they did for me, give you a big fat guilty grin.
Unfortunately, as the movie goes on, it becomes more and more disjointed and unsure of itself. While it constantly maintains its raison d’etre, which I, at least, assume is to celebrate the kind of films Hartley loves so much, and honor the original film, the storytelling becomes confused, the editing choppy, and the focus diluted. It’s as though two things were at play – the first being that the film was shot in order, and too much time was spent on the first act, leaving the crew having to rush for the rest of the movie, with a resultant lessening of assurance, and the second being the film being seriously hacked down in the editing room to achieve its genre-appropriate ninety-two minute running time. I don’t know if either of these is actually be the case, but there’s no denying the film’s quality drops as it progresses.
The biggest shame is that the carnage, when it comes (and it occupies a hell of a lot of the second half of the movie) is surprisingly uninspired. Telekinetic murders are a license to thrill, and we remember the great ones (almost every single one from the first two Omen movies, for example, are seared onto my brain – watch out for that glass pane David Warner!) but Patrick, which had every opportunity to create a raft of memorable such murders, creates none. Some are gruesome, some are deliberately, enjoyably ludicrous, but none is truly inventive and eye-opening (except, actually, the very first one, much earlier in the film – and the pun is intended).
Patrick is by no means a bad movie, and Hartley will definitely get better at this fictional feature game. He knows his movies, and gets tone, style and genre. Confidence will come, and with it, perhaps more inventive originality, which is what this faithful but inconsistent remake cries out for.