Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage of the Melbourne International Film Festival. For more information on MIFF visit http://miff.com.au/ and follow the festival on Twitter at @MIFFofficial.
We are in such short supply of original horror movies Down Under that it is a bit of a novelty when one of the few that does exist is remade. Never mind that the word “remake” has become a dirty word thanks to the unbroken string of American horror film remakes since Marcus Nispel turned a souped up The Texas Chain Saw Massacre into box office gold, there is a renewed sense of curiosity when one of “our own” gets a chance at a new life. Curiosity as to which one has been the chosen one (there is so little to choose from in the back catalogue of Australian horror films) and how it will turn out. Will it be a pointless, embarrassing rehash like the dreadful The Fog (2005) or will the one at the helm mix it up like Rob Zombie surprisingly did with Halloween (2007)? The mere fact that an Australian horror film original or not may be enough to get gore hounds excited - they are so few and far between save for a handful of recent post-Scream goodies like Wolf Creek, The Loved Ones and Lake Mungo in the last 10 years.
While not a completely successful remake, Patrick redux does appear to be made by someone who loves the genre, but sometimes innate awareness does not necessarily equal great storytelling ability.
Looking back to the 1970s Ozploitation era (not surprisingly, as the recent home grown horror hits are far too fresh to revisit), Not Quite Hollywood director Mark Hartley chose 1978 chiller Patrick to dub makeover worthy. Based on his knowledge and affection for the grindhouse-type films as expressed in his nostalgic 2008 documentary, Hartley seems the perfect choice. The argument could quite successfully be made that revisiting Patrick is unnecessary - it is a suspenseful and scary film that mostly holds up today - but as it turns out, in the hand of an Ozploitation fan boy, there is room to experiment.
While not a completely successful remake, Patrick redux does appear to be made by someone who loves the genre, but sometimes innate awareness does not necessarily equal great storytelling ability. To their credit, Hartley and scriptwriter Justin King have strayed further from the template than those that have attempted remakes before them. The basics are the same - a comatose psycho with telekinesis takes a liking to his pretty nurse - but the creative team have experimented with the structure and played around with atmospherics, putting their own stamp on it.
Recently single, Kathy Jacquard (Sharni Vinson) is looking for a fresh start so she takes a low paying, thankless job looking after patients in a vegetative state in a scungy old, run down mansion. Doctor Roget (Charles Dance) runs a tight ship - mainly because of his experimental treatments, and icy Matron Cassidy (Rachel Griffiths) is his right hand woman. All the patients are unresponsive, but Kathy makes a connection with Patrick (Jackson Gallagher), who has a dark secret and a major crush.
Shifting Patrick’s back-story from the opening moments to the final act creates an air of mystery about the character. Having him played by an attractive, toned young fellow also throws us. Perhaps Hartley and King thought this would serve to create more tension. It doesn’t. Postponing the reveal keeps us at arm’s length from him and to an extent his connection with Kathy. Regardless, the creative team are successful in dialing up the tension in other areas. The cliff-side location of the big old creaky isolated mansion that houses the patients creates a completely new feel to the story, with gothic overtones keeping us uneasy.
It is just a shame that after having such potent atmospherics, accompanied by an overwhelming but nerve jangling score, that Patrick falters along the way. Sometimes the pay off never lives up to the build up and Patrick is guilty of this. The over-reliance on cheap jump scares drain the fun - incessant and loud musical stings that try to make us leap from our seats come in far too quick succession, desensitizing us to the lazy trick. And the uninspired, drawn out climactic sequence, in which Kathy just seems to run endlessly around the hospital, achieves little, ensures that the film ends on a lower note than how it started. Even the recreation of the famous final jump scare falls flat.
It is just a shame that after having such potent atmospherics, accompanied by an overwhelming but nerve jangling score, that Patrick falters along the way. Sometimes the pay off never lives up to the build up and Patrick is guilty of this.
Vinson (in a different heroine-type role than in You’re Next) is solid but bringing to life the “straight” role leaves her little room to play. Griffiths and Dance have the most fun, sinking their teeth into their more theatrical roles, and stealing the show with their over the top interpretations. Dialogue-wise Dance is given the best material, but Griffiths clearly enjoys hamming it up as a hyperbolic Nurse Ratched.
Patrick is not likely to spark the kind of remake obsessive culture in the Australian film industry that we have seen abroad in the last 10 years, but it is a passable trip down memory lane and a decent introduction to the original.
[notification type=”star”]60/100 ~ OKAY. Patrick is not likely to spark the kind of remake obsessive culture in the Australian film industry that we have seen abroad in the last 10 years, but it is a passable trip down memory lane and a decent introduction to the original. [/notification]