A remake of Richard Franklin’s seminal Ozploitation favourite, Patrick is a visually assured fictional feature debut for director Mark Hartley, who previously examined the Ozploitation sub-genre with his exceptional documentary, Not Quite Hollywood.
As with Franklin’s original, the film concerns a new nurse, Kathy (Sharni Vinson), coming to work at the Roget clinic (now located in an isolated outback town), to look after a group of comatose patients, including the title character who develops a crush on our heroine and expresses it jealously with his psychic powers. Also in the mix are Dr. Roget (Charles Dance) and Matron Cassidy (Rachel Griffiths) who have their own unethical agenda for the patients.
Hartley takes the story of the original film and makes it his own. He embraces the strengths of the narrative and builds on it with Justin King’s sharp screenplay. The choice to make Patrick a more handsome young man with sympathetic features works well. He gives it a gorgeously gothic atmosphere that more than once recalls Franklin’s filming of Norman Bates’s house in Psycho 2, among other knowing and well incorporated references to other genre masters including Lucio Fulci (with assaults to the eye that would make even the Godfather Of Gore himself squirm), Dario Argento & Brian De Palma (with a beautifully composed widescreen and stunning Pino Donaggio score) as well as some Texas Chainsaw Massacre for good measure. While some might consider it over stylized, if ever a film embraced over-stylization as its signature style, this is it.
While his visuals are more than adequate, Hartley’s sense of pacing and structure is slightly lacking. He tries too hard to keep the tension constantly wound up instead of letting it rise and fall when needed; an over-produced soundscape doesn’t help matters. His individual sequences however, are well made and exciting, especially the tense finale.
While Vinson is fantastic as the leading lady, the show is absolutely stolen by Dance, who does his usual snide bad guy routine but does it so joyously well, and Griffiths in her first horror outing is sensational. Both give not only rich performances but fit the tone of the film perfectly.
It’s not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but Hartley’s Patrick is a worthy remake of Franklin’s film, and a fun, exciting ride that promises big things for Hartley in the future.