They have the most beautiful beaches in the world, their tiniest wildlife can kill three grown men with just a dirty look, their money is colour-coded and waterproof for when you’re drunk and in the water (it’s true!), and their lager can double as an anaesthetic. Area-wise, it’s about the same size as the United States, but only has about five or six major cities, so there’s vast tracts of unpopulated land that could easily hide two or three Lost Worlds. It’s this isolation that has led some folk to consider aspects of Australian culture to be a bit, shall we say, behind the times? In some places there a woman asking for the hotel’s wi-fi password is grounds for burning her as a witch.
(I kid, of course. They stone witches there nowadays).
They had a film history, though many of their native stars earned their acclaim elsewhere, like Errol Flynn, Peter Finch, Rod Taylor and, er, George Lazenby.
It wasn’t until John Gorton, the Australian Prime Minister from 1968-1971, instituted a number of state programs that offered support for film projects, that native movies began to be noticed outside of Australia (it also helped that they created an R Rating that allowed for blood and boobs).
The Seventies and Eighties produced cult movies that were bleak, beautiful, quirky and mystical, and many touched on horror, fantasy and science fiction themes: NIGHT OF FEAR (1972), THE CARS THAT ATE PARIS (1974), LONG WEEKEND (1978), THIRST (1979), MAD MAX (1979), ROADGAMES (1981), and MAD MAX 2: THE ROAD WARRIOR (1981). Presumably Paul Hogan came along with CROCODILE DUNDEE and officially made Australian movies uncool.
(I can’t go on without noting Peter Jackson, in the neighbouring New Zealand, who kept the flames of low budget horror goodies burning with gems like BAD TASTE and BRAINDEAD, before going off to secure his retirement package with All Things Hobbit.)
In a 2008 documentary on the subject – NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD, which I might review later – director Mark Hartley coined the portmanteau Ozploitation, shortening it from Aussiesploitation as used by Quentin Tarantino in the documentary. And we’re not done with them yet either; since then we’ve had a mini revival in recent years, with movies like WOLF CREEK (2005), LAKE MUNGO (2008), 100 BLOODY ACRES (2012)… and the movie I’m reviewing today, PATRICK (2013), also directed by Mark Hartley.
This was in fact a remake of a 1978 movie directed by the late Richard Franklin (the aforementioned ROADGAMES and PSYCHO II), who had appeared in NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD shortly before his death from prostate cancer, and to whom the documentary was dedicated. Even if you’ve never seen the original movie, you’ll probably have seen the jumpy bit at the end that is usually included in every horror movie clip show.
PATRICK (2013) opens with a nurse walking through a long dark corridor, seeing only with the occasional flash from the camera on her iPhone (too cheap to download a flashlight app, Nursie?). Too late, the last picture she takes is of the huge needle that comes out of the darkness and pierces one of her eyeballs. She dies, and her body is dragged away.
After the credits, we open on a creepy, isolated Victorian house, as foreboding Hitchcockian music builds and builds… it turns out it’s in the earphones of Dr Roget (Charles Dance, GAME OF THRONES), and by the way, it’s the Brian May score from the original film. Roget then has a scene to give some mysterious exposition about how his experiments are at a crucial stage, but that he only has a few more weeks to get some results, if only he can find some decent nurses who won’t just disappear, and if you think this is connected to that opening scene, give yourself a No-Prize.
A new nurse does arrive, one Kathy Jacqard (Sharni Vinson, who was the best things about YOU’RE NEXT, which we reviewed here), a specialist in the treatment of the comatose (presumably helping all those folk who go to Yanni concerts). She impresses Roget, though not Roget’s daughter, the glacial Head Matron Cassidy (Rachel Griffiths, from TV’s SIX FEET UNDER), who shows her around the creepy, isolated Victorian house, which is serving as a research facility and long-term storage for a dozen or so comatose patients.
One of them, Patrick (Jackson Gallagher), a boy who went comatose after electrocuting his mother and her boyfriend while they were in the bath together, intrigues her, and not just because he’s mysteriously buff and muscled for someone who’s spent more time in bed than a teenager with his first Hustler.
We also meet the other characters in this little dram: creepy old Red Herring Mr Fraser (Chris Fortuna) who keeps the electricity going, perky Nurse Paula Williams (Peta Sargeant, IRON SKY), who fixes Kathy up with a local man (Martin Crewes, RESIDENT EVIL), and Ed (Damon Gameau, THE TRACKER), Kathy’s ex boyfriend who keeps trying to call her and eventually follows along in person (in a surprising twist, he turns out not to be an abusive asshole, and they get back together again).
But Kathy grows fixed on Patrick, who strikes her as being aware despite vehement denials from Roget and the Matron. When she works out a means of communicating with him through his seemingly random spitting reflexes. She tries to show it to Roget, but gets nowhere (it’s like when Costello would try and fail to show Abbot that the Frankenstein Monster and Dracula was walking about).
But Patrick isn’t interested in showing off to Roget, or in getting the electroshock treatments being administered to him stopped. In fact, he wants more, because they’re augmenting his powers, and his obsession with Kathy…
PATRICK is a decent enough film, and with the wild camera angles, atmospheric lighting and over the top acting (except for Vinson, securing her place as a new Horror Icon), director Hartley channels the spirit of DePalma. The story remains identical to the original, but updated to increase Patrick’s powers so that he can reach out and possess people via their cell phones, and make them do grisly things like roast their hands on grills or drive off cliffs. The only thing I didn’t like about this update was the use of visual glowing special effects in some scenes, which otherwise was a distraction.
There’s some nice gore shots as well – stabbings and eye piercings and burns and electrocutions. – but sadly they’re as brief as the obligatory nude shots. There’s also some dumb moments: at the start, Kathy is told she could be fired at a moment’s notice, but she is allowed to stick around even after she’s reported on Roget’s unethical treatment. There’s also a scene where she’s ‘testing’ Patrick’s tactile sensitivity by reaching into his shorts (perhaps she studied medicine under Dr Benny Hill?), though this leads to an outrageous sequence later where Patrick reanimates the other patients and makes them chant in unison, “Patrick wants his handjob!”
We’ve all been there, right guys?
Anyway, there are worse remakes to spend some time on, though it could have done to have been more over the top. It (and the original movie) is available on DVD and most VODs (in some places it’s listed with the subtitle EVIL AWAKENS), and the trailer is below.
Director: Mark Hartley
Plot: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 4 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 1 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Deggsy. And Edna.