05th Aug2014

‘Patrick: Evil Awakens’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Charles Dance, Rachel Griffiths, Sharni Vinson, Martin Crewes, Peta Sergeant | Written by Justin King | Directed by Mark Hartley

Patrick-Vinson

Former music video director Mark Hartley came to prominence, at least to me, in 2008 when his wonderful documentary Not Quite Hollywood, which detailed the “Ozploitation” genre, exploded on film blogs and movie sites across the globe. He then followed that up with another documentary, Machete Maidens Unleashed, a look at Filipino genre filmmaking, in 2010. I was fortunate enough to see that doc on the big screen at 2011′s Frightfest Glasgow and now, some three years later Hartley’s feature film debut Patrick: Evil Awakens, a loose remake of Richard Franklin’s seminal 1978 shocker, makes it’s UK debut on DVD.

It’s been some years since I’ve seen Franklin’s original film and it’s Italian lensed “sequel” Patrick Lives Again, but it’s not like anyone can actually forget such insane pieces of filmmaking – the first came smack bang in the middle of the original Ozploitation boom and the second? Well no one who’s ever see it can forget that film! Hartley’s film follows the same basic plot in so much that it sees Nurse Kathy Jacquard (Vinson) arrives to work at the foreboding, desolate, creepy, eerie (insert horror movie  cliche adjective here) Roget Clinic to look after comatose patients under the (some would mentally unstable) Dr. Roget – played by a commanding Charles Dance – including the handsome Patrick who develops a crush on her and expresses it jealously with his increasingly alarming psychic powers.

So far so Patrick right? Right. However Hartley goes for a whole new take on the visual style of the film, matching the overwrought, sometimes overbearing, Pino Donaggio score with camera angles and other stylistic choices that scream Brian DePalma. Forget Hartley echoing his Ozpolitation forefathers – the film is seemingly his love letter to one of America’s greatest genre directors!

There’s still plenty of exploitation elements of course – plenty of gore, including a nasty eye piercing and a grisly face-melting scene. The film also has some wild humour, Vinson goes for the comatose Patrick’s penis at one point (to apparently see if he can “feel”), which leads to a truly outrageous sequence in which the comatose rise from their long-standing – or should that be lying down? – slumber to chant “Patrick wants his handjob!”

Thankfully for an exploitation flick Hartley has rounded out his wild story with a tour-de-force cast. Both Rachel Griffiths and Charles Dance bring their years of experience to Patrick: Evil Awakens Dance in particular chewing each and every scene he’s in – and the moment he tells our heroine Sharni Vinson to “Fuck Off” has to rival Tom Hiddleston’s “mewling quim” as one of the great modern movie one-liners. Yet despite both Dance and Griffiths acting up a storm (Griffiths really comes into her own in the films final third) this is Sharni Vinson’s film. Building on the successes of Bait 3D and You’re Next, her performance here is of the A-list scream queen variety. Her character, whilst sometimes vulnerable, never really backs down from anyone – not even Charles Dance’s maniacal doctor – and when she finally “takes on” the titular Patrick she evokes much more legendary scream queen roles. Here’s hoping Vinson can continue to pick such great and interesting film roles in the future.

How does this compare to the original? Well of course everyone hates a remake these days but, like The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes before it, Mark Hartley’s Patrick: Evil Awakens joins a very small, but growing, pantheon of great horror remakes. And like the original movie spawned a (illegimate) sequel, Hartley nods at the possibility of following up his remake, with an end title card that simply reads Patrick Vive

A cracking horror film that rises above its Ozploitation roots thanks to Hartley’s excellent directorial choices and Pino Donnagio’s score, Patrick: Evil Awakens marks Hartley as a great new Aussie feature-film talent and I’m interested to see what genre he takes on next.

Patrick: Evil Awakens is released on DVD on August 11th.

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