Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Patrick: Evil Awakens (in a Testy Mood)

He might not be on the tip of every tongue, but Australia’s favorite telekinetic coma patient is one of the few horror movie villains known affectionately by their first names, like Freddy and Jason. He might look easy to outrun, but he has a long paranormal arm. Mark Hartley gives him a dark and stormy rebooting in Patrick: Evil Awakens (trailer here), which opens this Friday in select theaters.

When brain trauma nurse Kathy Jacquard arrives at the Roget Clinic (a remote sanatorium for persistent vegetative patients that looks like it was designed by the same architect responsible for Norman Bates’ house), Patrick Thompson apparently just lies about, creeping everybody out. Occasionally, he spits too, but that is one of those involuntary reflexes.  Soon though, he begins communicating with the empathetic Jacquard via his powers and the nearby computer terminal. Initially, Jacquard is determined to save Patrick from Dr. Roget’s dubious shock treatments, but she soon starts to suspect her patient is behind all the mysterious mayhem happening around her.

Yes, Patrick is definitely the clingy type. However, Dr. Roget is no saint either, but he is a wizard at coming up with synonyms.  His daughter, Matron Cassidy is not exactly warm and friendly either. This will be a tough gig for Jacquard, but it will be worse for the men looking to worm their way into her life.

Remaking a cult favorite is always a risky proposition, but probably no filmmaker could tackle Patrick with as much credibility as Hartley, a certifiable expert in Australian (and Filipino) exploitation films as the director of the wildly entertaining Not Quite Hollywood and Machete Maidens Unleashed documentaries. Hartley cranks up the gothic elements, drawing nearly as much from the Hammer Frankenstein franchise as the original source film. It all looks great and gives Charles Dance OBE plenty to chew on as Dr. Roget. While there is an over-reliance on cheap jump scares in the early going, Hartley cuts loose in the second half with some deliriously over the top sequences.

If not exactly a feminist triumph, the figure of Jacquard is comparatively proactive and You’re Next’s Sharni Vinson’s performance is reasonably assertive. At least, she is not sitting around waiting to be a victim. Likewise, former Oscar nominee Rachel Griffiths (for Hilary and Jackie, remember?) pulls off a few well turned character development surprises as the severe Matron Cassidy. As for Jackson Gallagher, you could say he is rather stiff as the title character.

By genre standards, the new Patrick is pretty impressive, featuring a massively moody score composed by Pino Donaggio (probably best known for his work with Brian De Palma and Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now). Hartley also finds a wickedly funny way to drop in Brian May’s original Patrick theme. It is certainly preposterous at times, but it still works quite well, all things considered. Recommended for horror movie fans and Ozploitation junkies, Patrick: Evil Awakens opens this Friday (3/14) in select theaters.