Patrick: Evil Awakens is an Australian horror film that is a remake of Richard Franklin’s 1978 horror flick Patrick… which I must admit I haven’t scene until now but, that is being remedied as I write this. The story finds recently single nurse Kathy Jacquard (You’re Next’s Sharni Vinson) coming to work at a clinic specializing in the comatose and brain dead.The Roget Clinic is run by the brilliant but, cold hearted Dr. Roget (Charles Dance) and his equally cold head nurse Matron Cassidy (Rachel Griffiths). Her only friend there is pretty and promiscuous Nurse Williams (Peta Sergeant) until she starts to feel sympathy toward a handsome brain dead patient named Patrick (Jackson Gallagher) who Roget uses as the focus of his experimental treatments… treatments Kathy finds cruel and unnecessary. But, Patrick may not be as brain dead as he seems and when he starts to communicate with Kathy through simple gestures and then through more advanced methods, she is delighted …until not only is Patrick’s true nature revealed but, the full force of his telekinetic power and his homicidal infatuation with her. Now she and anyone close to her are in mortal danger from a fiend whose mind is far from dead and whose intent is far from good.
Under the skilled direction of Mark Hartley, from a script by Justin King based on the original film, Patrick: Evil Awakens is a pleasant horror surprise that gives us a healthy does of chills and thrills and is loaded with heavy Gothic atmosphere that reminded me of the classic Hammer Horror films in their heyday. Even in it’s quieter moments, Hartley establishes an underlying tension far before Patrick reveals himself to be the powerful and demented fiend that his handsome, peaceful demeanor hides all too well. Patrick’s powers and intent are revealed slowly as first strange occurrences happen to injure the two men vying for Kathy’s attention, ex-husband Ed (Damon Gameau) and handsome Brian (Martin Crewes) and Patrick begins to communicate with her through electronic devices such as PC and cellphone. But, it’s not long before Patrick goes all Carrie and people start dying in gruesome ways and the film really takes off and has a blast with it’s story. And despite how outrageous things get and some weak FX betraying some of the more advanced applications of Patrick’s power, Hartley maintains the tension and dread while having a little over the top fun in his last act… and the last act is a blast of intense fun even with some borderline silly uses of telekinesis and the weak FX mentioned earlier. The film also has some sumptuous but, unsettling cinematography by Garry Richards and an atmospheric and very effective score by legendary Italian composer Pino Donaggio that help director Hartley deliver a horror that is both quaintly old fashioned and yet visceral, intense and modern. Not bad for a documentary filmmaker’s first flick!
The cast are exceptional, and go a long way in helping the preposterous scenario work, with Vinson once again playing a strong and resilient heroine but, with a very human and compassionate core. Charles Dance… a very underrated and skilled actor… creates a character that deftly walks the fine line between brilliant physician and obsessed Frankenstein in his Dr. Roget. He at first seems arrogant but, noble till, like Patrick, his true nature become clear. Rachel Griffiths also gives us a character that at first feels like just a cold-hearted bitch but, there are some interesting layers revealed as the plot progresses and Peta Sergeant is very lively and likable as Williams, the only person at the clinic that seems to have a heart aside from Kathy. The rest of the cast do well in establishing their characters despite not a lot of screen time and the work of the cast overall really helps make this the treat it is. They take their parts very seriously and along with director Hartley’s giving lots of respect to what could have turned out to be a silly story, give this horror the weight it needs even when it starts to go over the top.
So, Overall, I had a blast with Patrick: Evil Awakens. It’s a film which nostalgically reminded me of a Gothic Hammer Horror film yet very much a modern day chiller with a lot of visceral intensity and gore. The film isn’t afraid to go over the top but, wisely chooses when to do so and overcomes some weak FX while keeping the sillier uses of Patrick’s telekinesis from camp territory. It’s a fun and very effective horror and based on what I’ve seen while writing this, livelier and far more intense then the well made but, stuffy and low key original… and the remake honors that flick with some nice nods too. A very entertaining horror and a really effective feature film debut from director Mark Hartley. Sad this got dumped unceremoniously onto home media when it ranks as one of the better horror flicks I’ve seen so far this year.
3 and 1/2 nightmare thrown nurses.
WARNING: Trailer is brief but, does give away a key character’s fate and one of the film’s better bits.
…AND THE ORIGINAL…
So, watched the original PG-rated flick while writing my remake review and while it is well-made and basically follows the same story… not to mention stars 70s Brit cutie Susan Penhaligon who I was crushing on as a kid after first seeing her in The Land That Time Forgot… it is basically very low key and works more in melodrama and subtlety with Patrick’s (here Robert Thompson) moments of telekinesis being a lot more grounded and all done in camera. It was an interesting film and well acted but, I prefer the remake’s more stylish and intense approach. The original was also very somber and humorless compared to the remake which had a more fun with it’s premise.
So, in this case, while I am not fond of the horror remake trend, this is an example of a good one where the original isn’t perfect and is expanded and improved upon in the redo.