Having never seen the original 1978 Patrick (directed by Psycho II‘s Richard Franklin) I was able to take in Mark Hartley’s 2013 film of the same name as something of an empty vessel. There was no expectation, no attachment to the earlier work that would impinge upon my enjoyment. There was also no pre-existing fondness to make me hope for something special. Watching the new Patrick for me was as simple as sitting down in front of a screen and hoping for a good time.
In that regard, Patrick comes frustratingly close to success before taking a nosedive into the DTV abyss. Sharni Vinson is really quite good as Kathy, a well intentioned nurse who actually seeks out a creepily isolated treatment center for comatose patients. The clinic is populated with a host of good actors – Charles Dance brings his coldest can of Lannister to the role of Doctor Roget while Rachel Griffifths (Brenda from “Six Feet Under”) is almost completely misused as Matron Cassidy. Peta Sergeant’s Nurse Williams is the sole welcoming presence for Kathy, often arriving at just the right time to give the audience a break from the monotony of the film’s dour location and denizens.
Then there’s Patrick himself (Jackson Gallagher), a supposedly braindead patient with admirably healthy muscle tone and the ability to spit on command. As Kathy becomes convinced that Patrick is somehow cognizant of his surroundings, things start to go really wrong – both within and outside of the narrative. As Patrick opens itself up and begins revealing its secrets, it goes somewhat off the rails. This isn’t a complete disaster – we remain invested in Kathy and her struggle to keep the people around her safe – but it invites in some wonky elements (like psychic text messaging) and some horrendous CGI. In fact, everything modern about this film (from rendered pixels to the overuse of iPhones) had me wondering if this story would have been better off left in 1978 entirely.
It’s a shame, because so many elements here are actually constructed rather well. The setup is decent, the actors are good and even the script and direction initially seem like they’re going to rise above the pack. But then convolution and an overwhelming chintziness set in (alongside gore effects that conceptually rub the wrong way against the film’s tone) and it becomes a slog to the finish line. I felt like I knew every maddening, repetitious beat like the back of my own hand and was just winding down the clock. I can’t say this is worse than the original film, but I don’t see how such a potentially interesting idea could get a 3rd act any worse than this.
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