Eschewing the mostly bright scenes of the original film, director Mark Hartley ( of the enjoyable documentaries Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!, Machete Maidens Unleashed!, and the forthcoming Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films) instead opts for a gloomy, washed out gothic universe. In all its crumbling glory, the formidable psychiatric home would fit well in a Poe adaptation, and acts as a largely silent, nefarious character itself. In this day and age of every character in every film sporting empty, model-good looks, this Patrick is a likewise shining beacon of prettiness among the shadows; he’s a handsome young dude in this version, unlike the original, wherein the character had freakishly creepy, nearly bug-like eyes.
Hartley’s Patrick opens with a terrifying scene, which I won’t give away, but here’s a hint: a smartphone is continually flashed by trembling nurse, horrified at what those flashes reveal. It’s not only a great start to the film, but a nice piece of foreshadowing. The smartphone’s flash is a mirror that reflects the film’s story: things are not what they seem, and only through painful glimpses and shocks, then much more violent outbursts later, do you see what’s beneath the shadows. Additionally, the film is so gothic, the nurses uniforms and the psychiatric clinic so dated that only through the use of smartphones and computers do you realize that you’re not watching a period piece.
It’s sometimes through these electronics that Patrick communicates and terrorizes his hapless victims. A comatose patient in an entire ward of them, Patrick is special, you see. While his eyes stare open, he can control objects, including cars, doors, and more. After gaining the lustful and curious attentions, of new nurse Kathy (Sharni Vinson, You’re Next), Patrick thwarts the budding relationship by delving head first into creepy-asshole-boyfriend mode, telepathically stalking Kathy while she tries to discover his secrets, and hurting the men in her life. Badly. And that’s the plot until it reaches its boiling point, a perhaps unintentionally funny ending that Hartley may not have planned. Of course, just in case Patrick turned out to be a hit, we’re left with “Patrick Vive,” a hint that there may be a Patrick Lives sequel.
Overall, Patrick is not a bad film, but it could have been great. The production design is beautiful, and the acting is strong: Charles Dance (Game of Thrones), Rachel Griffiths (Six Feet Under) and Peta Sergeant (one of the bright spots in Iron Sky) round out the lead cast. However, the jump scares veer into obnoxious territory, albeit accompanied by a score from Italian composer Pino Donaggio (Don’t Look Now, Carrie, Dressed to Kill). And although at times the film suffers from needless exposition, Patrick is an enjoyable treat for viewers who prefer not to think too hard about plot. Here’s hoping that Hartley becomes a more confident narrative filmmaker who learns to trust his audience.