Tuesday, February 25, 2014

PATRICK: Evil Awakens - The Great and Powerful Ozploitation Gets a Remake

For some reason I always think that Gerrit Graham is the bed ridden, eye open, comatose, telekinetically enhanced patient in Patrick. I know better or at least I should seeing as it's a classic piece of Ozploitation cinema that would pretty much put Graham on the other side of the world, but my brain seems to play this trick on itself as if it were a mirage in the outback. I had the chance to sit down with the much maligned though yet unseen Patrick remake to see if the new feature could hope to stand up to the cult iconic original. While I cannot claim that you'll watch a picture as original or a comatose patient as disturbing, Mark Hartley has put together a good movie that is worth watching and, separate from the original release, should be appreciated as a solid piece of horror fiction.

Synopsis: The guy in the bed at the hospital for research on coma patients... he may not be as vegetative as you might think. When a new nurse comes on board to help look after a hospital of test subjects, the secrets start to spill out from the hidden mind of the human guinea pig looking for freedom from his own mind, but what secrets still remain hidden behind locked eyes. What does Patrick truly want? How does he plan to get it?


You should know that Mark Hartley is a man who creates amazing documentaries. Both Not Quite Hollywood and Machete Maidens Unleashed were excellent looks at two different cultures and time periods in the creation of film, Australia and the Philippines in the 70's and 80's respectively. For a moment we should pay attention to Not Quite Hollywood and understand that if a person was going to remake Patrick and touch a special place in horror history, it should really be done by an historian who was familiar with both origin and substance of the movie and not merely the fan. Not Quite Hollywood examine Ozploitation cinema (cinema that exploited all things Australian) and is one of the best docs on horror or any genre I've seen (not solely dedicated to horror in this case). Perhaps that's why the remake of Patrick works so well. Hartley understands, in great detail, the creation of the original and the driving force between the great cinema of yester-Oz.

Clearly this film has been modernized. It is much darker than it's counter part, stars the stunning Sharni Vinson, number one Aussie in the cast,  among some other talented actors and preserves nicely the story of the original picture with some updated, embellished story items, less obtuse camera angles and some updated effects work.  Sharni carries most of the movie, and is a strong leading lady. This is the kind of performance we have come to expect from her after her powerhouse, You're Next, heroinism. I said it before, and I will say it again. I'm glad to see her in as many horror pictures as she will perform in. Perhaps the greatest letdown is the actor who plays Patrick himself. While there's not much to a performance as a comatose patient in terms of dialogue, the physical look that should be set to disturb is lackluster. To say that an actor who isn't performing is underperforming is quite the task to support. Perhaps it's in the eyes or maybe the casting was just incorrect. This youngish, near angelic new Patrick doesn't startle, frighten or seduce. He is only a magnet for our sympathy, and not to be feared in at his most evil. The cast is rounded out by Rachel Griffiths of Six Feet Under fame who gives a truly strong performance as the head nurse, in fear and paranoid as well as Charles Dance who is the perfect doctor evil. He's not a Lanister anymore (nodding to his role in Game of Thrones).

Patrick couldn't hope to live up to the original or at least the perception of the original by its core audience. No cult fanbase could let it be good I suppose, but it is good. As a separate film, devoid of comparison I think audiences are going to appreciate some very real tension, tension that may have even lacked in the original picture. The score is good though not quite as memorable as the original, popular performed by Goblin. The end result of the thing, the finale, provides a somewhat obvious, but enjoyable twist.

All in all I'm going to recommend Patrick to those who haven't seen the original picture or at least can forgive a remake for its uniqueness. Mostly so I don't have to listen to the chants of "why was this made".  It's a solid piece of horror fiction and its own story with proper respects paid to the original by a cast and crew who "get it". Granted I enjoyed the original film and sequel (sequel!) but I am not the staunch, tunnel-visioned supporter that can't get out of his own way to enjoy a good story.

The only truly negative thing I will bring to the table about this movie... shitty poster/cover art. The original wins hands down. The "faces" style doesn't appeal to me, and this one could use an update.

Patrick will be available in theatrical release beginning March 14th from Phase 4 Films.

-Doc Terror

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