Directed by Mark Hartley
In a turn of events that certainly doesn’t happen very often, documentarian-turned-filmmaker Mark Hartley has remade the 1978 film, Patrick after highlighting the film and others of its ilk in his 2008 documentary Not Quite Hollywood. Delving into what makes so many Ozploitation films such valuable exports and highlighting the reasons why they should be remembered, Hartley already showed an ability to educate and also entertain with Not Quite Hollywood. Seeing this, it makes sense that his remake of one of those films exhibits the same understanding of how to craft an effective horror film that’s decidedly over-the-top while still retaining the same atmosphere that made the original Patrick worth documenting in the first place.
Set in a gothic hospital and centering around a newly hired nurse named Kathy (Sharni Vinson) who’s been assigned to watch over the forgotten patients in a dark and dingy coma ward, Patrick sets an immediate tone that immediately informs the viewer that this reality lies somewhere in between Gothic horror and outright camp. The performances by Charles Dance as Doctor Roget and Rachel Griffins as head nurse, Matron Cassidy, walk this line and even teeter on the edge at times, just as a number of moments in the film do. However, the atmosphere and the more outlandish developments never go too far and, as a result - most likely from Hartley’s sure hand - the actors seem to know exactly what kind of movie they’re in at all times.
Using modern technology to update the original and allow the telekinetic Patrick to have more tools at his disposal, the rest of the hospital stays relatively primitive, which maintains some of Patrick’s justification for acting out in extreme ways. Shock therapy is still very much a reality, but in this version, at least Patrick has internet access. Growing more obsessed with his new nurse Kathy, Patrick is able to communicate with her but chooses to only show her what he is capable of. That is, until he starts a psychic assault on a number of undeserving innocents and a few victims who Patrick is probably justified in killing.
Because the film is so highly stylized, it’s easier for Hartley and screenwriter Justin King to get away with some of the more implausible death sequences, but it must have also been difficult to craft kills that weren’t too ridiculous. Because the tone is established and maintained, it allows Hartley and company to be almost limitless in their creativity. Also, because Patrick has control over circuit boards and can use his will to travel through electricity, new technology is used to the film’s advantage without undermining its roots, staying true to the original film in some respects. It’s so inventive and these types of kills are rarely seen on screen, so the joy felt watching them and how they compliment the premise make it much easier to go along with the outlandish.
Hartley will return to documentary films with a focus on the history of Canon films like Death Wish and The Last American Virgin, but if he so chooses to continue this trend, there will probably end up being more fans of the remake, a term that is still largely cringe-worthy.
3 1/2 out of 5