Patrick's Ways: Patrick, Patrick Still Lives and Patrick: Evil Awakens (1978 - 2013) - Reviewed

Images courtesy of Severin Films and Umbrella Entertainment

Before coming to America with Roadgames, Psycho II and the cult favorite videogame movie Cloak & Dagger, Australian born director Richard Franklin started out in Ozploitation with the softcore sex comedies The True Story of Eskimo Nell and Fantasm.  Though a considerably low starting point for the eventual cult producer-director, it paved the way for his first real sleeper hit with his third feature: the 1978 psychokinetic metaphysical horror thriller Patrick.  The story of a comatose hospital bedridden man with supernatural abilities who begins wreaking murderous havoc upon the arrival of a new nurse who recognizes the invalid’s invisible powers, the film helped popularize Ozploitation in foreign territories and spawned not one but two films with the dirty sleazy unofficial 1980 Italian “sequel” Patrick Still Lives and decades later a fully fledged remake in 2013 with Patrick: Evil Awakens.
A favorite of Quentin Tarantino’s who referenced it directly in the first half of Kill Bill: Vol. 1 when Uma Thurman unconsciously spits blood in the face of Michael Parks, Patrick was intended as an Aussie rip-off of Brian De Palma’s Carrie which ultimately found its own footing through screenwriter and frequent collaborator Everett De Roche.  The resulting film is less Carrie and seemed to pave the way for such metaphysical terrors as The Sender with so much of the supernatural inexplicable activity being generated from a bedside.  Despite a checkered releasing rollout with the U.S. cut redubbed to scrub the Aussie accents and Italy’s cut rescoring the film altogether, Patrick proved to be a successful enough endeavor for it to fully launch the filmmaking career of Richard Franklin as well as spawn two additional pictures mostly in the same vein.  Now, let’s take a look at two Australian and one Italian answer(s) to the new wave of metaphysical horror sweeping the globe.

Patrick (1978)

A few years after having murdered his mother and her boyfriend in the bath via an electric heater, the titular Patrick (Robert Thompson) remains comatose in the private hospital Roget Clinic managed by head Matron Cassidy (Julia Blake) and owner Dr. Roget (Robert Helpmann) who are cruelly keeping the youth alive to study the gulf between life and death.  Enter newly recruited nurse Kathy Jacquard (Susan Penhaligon) tasked with caring for the bedridden mute character with his eyes plastered menacingly wide open amid other patient claims that he can fly in and out of the window at night.  While fending off come-ons from her recently divorced ex-husband Ed (Rod Mullinar), it becomes apparent that Patrick has the psychokinetic ability to depart from his body and move inanimate objects around like a poltergeist.  Soon after doctor Brian Wright (Bruce Barry) who takes a liking to Kathy is nearly drowned by an unseen force, it becomes clear Patrick’s homicidal tendencies haven’t ceased despite being mute and immobile with literally nothing to stop him from potentially killing again. 

Borne out of a jump scare concept not dissimilar from Carrie’s infamous final scream, screenwriter Everett De Roche’s Patrick kicked around for a few years before pairing up with Richard Franklin who helped pare down the script and brought on coproducer Antony I. Ginnane who helped raise the film’s low budget.  Made on a shoestring $400,000 with rough cinematography by Donald McAlpine and acoustic orchestral score by Brian May (rescored for Italy by Goblin), the regional looking Ozploitation flick is meat and potatoes filmmaking that eventually finds a style as the interactions between nurse Kathy and patient Patrick intensify.  Mostly driven by sharp editing by Edward McQueen-Mason who cuts judiciously between Patrick’s soft whispered mouth movements and Kathy’s reactions who picks up on the mute form of communication and attempts at demonic possession.
Despite a meager box office reception in its native country of origin, Patrick went on to become an international success in several countries including Italy and an Americanized reedit with much of the dialogue redubbed with new American accents, a move that irked the director and actor Robert Helpmann who unsuccessfully tried taking legal action against the US distributors.  The film’s home video release was checkered over the years with Severin Films finally coming in to release a polished remaster of both Patrick and its filthy dirty illegitimate kid cousin Patrick Still Lives coinciding with the release of the 2013 remake.  On its terms it remains a tough and tense telekinetic thriller with startling gore effects, a resourceful and fearless heroine as well as one of the more original jump scares in cinema history.

Patrick Still Lives (1980)

After making a huge splash in Italy thanks to a Goblin score replacing the Ozploitation film’s original soundtrack, the Italians were quick to capitalize on that film’s success.  Under two years under the direction of Mario Landi in what turned out to be his final project, the ultra-low-budget unauthorized unofficial “sequel” to the hit 1978 telekinetic Ozploitation shocker Patrick Still Lives emerged in Italian cinemas to great controversy.  Whereas the original Richard Franklin film was sparing on the nudity and judicious about what it did or didn’t show, the Landi film is a dicks-out exercise in reckless abandon and carnal excesses that remains one of the most exploitative telekinetic horror films ever made. 

After a drive-by car incident leaves young Patrick (Gianni Dei) bedridden in a country estate with his eyes glued open like in the first film where alongside two other patients reside under the care of Dr. Herschel (Sacha PitoĆ«ff).  While starting out mostly repeating the setup and story beats of the Ozploitation film, it quickly descends into a near Roman Orgy with frequently nude sex starved characters making up the ensemble of victims our titular Patrick will soon begin offing with his supernatural telekinetic powers.  Soon Dr. Herschel’s newly hired secretary Lydia (Andrea Belfiore) forms a psychosexual link with the comatose Patrick while supporting characters begin dropping dead in an array of nasty ways including but not limited to an indescribably offensive murder with a poker that easily pushes this into the all-time paragons of exploitation cinema bad taste.
Vulgar, bordering on pornography when it isn’t ramping up the psychedelia with a goofy glowing eyes shot opening the film and Bava-esque colored lighting, Patrick Still Lives joins Lucio Fulci’s The Devil’s Honey as one of the most abominably filthy dirty raunchy exploitation films you will ever see.  While repeating the setup of the first film, its gaggle of horn dogs who carouse around naked and frequently fornicating comes very close to being a porn parody.  There’s even a semi-nude girl fight mid-movie that further pushes this away from Richard Franklin and into Andy Sidaris or Jim Wynorski territory.  However it mixes in a number of wild kills including a one-up of the swimming pool murder attempt from the first and the film’s lighting and 16mm cinematography by Caliber 9 DP Franco Villa is significantly more colorful than the first and the funky soundtrack by Berto Pisano stands out more than the stately score for the first.

A movie only hardened grindhouse exploitation fans will eagerly gobble up, the film was both a follow-up to Landi’s previous film Giallo in Venice for producer Gabriele Crisanti as well as another one of those movies that quickly utilized a preexisting set.  Much like how Forbidden World was quickly generated over the weekend on the sets for Galaxy of Terror, Patrick Still Lives was largely shot on the sets for both Burial Ground and Blood for Dracula.  The ensemble cast does what they can with the material which mostly asks for the actresses to frolic around naked.  The worst abuses are suffered by Mariangela Giordano who had to endure extensive shooting for the film’s most notorious scene that takes all who see it out of the movie.
Again, not for the faint hearted or easily offended.  In fact not really for much anyone other than those pining for brutal shocks in between naked bodies copulating or being impaled by foreign objects.  Patrick Still Lives exists rather in a hyper-transgressive needs-to-be-seen-to-be-believed subverse not everyone will subscribe to.  As with their previous release of Patrick, Severin Films put together a digitally restored version with a note stating some of the elements were irreparably damaged.  That shouldn’t matter though as occasional blemishes only enhance the already thick musk of sleaziness permeating this naughty dirty piece of exploitation trash riffing on Richard Franklin’s still classy telekinetic Ozploitation epic.  It is bonkers but beware and handle this one with extreme caution before subjugating unsuspecting viewers to something that will make them want to wash their eyes out.

Patrick: Evil Awakens (2013)
Just one year before making the beloved Golan-Globus legacy documentary Electric Bugaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, documentary filmmaker Mark Hartley fresh off of his Ozsploitation documentary Not Quite Hollywood set to reimagine one of the greatest Ozploitation films of all time Patrick in his first fictional feature.  Penned this time around by Justin King along with Mark Hartley, Ray Boseley and Antony I. Ginnane based on the original 1978 film of the same name, this new 2013 Patrick or Patrick: Evil Awakens as it is known internationally more or less follows the same story beats but ups the ante on the violent gory deaths, special effects department and a little more sex and nudity than before though it doesn’t quite go the full orgiastic bacchanal of Patrick Still Lives.  Mostly it’s a souped up redux of the Richard Franklin film sporting an overqualified original score and Charles Dance as the mad doctor Roget.
Young nurse Kathy Jacquar (Sharni Vinson of You’re Next) accepts a new position in a remote psych clinic run by strict Matron Cassidy (Rachel Griffiths) and the mercurial Dr. Roget (Charles Dance) and befriends plucky Nurse Williams (Peta Sergeant) over some drinks.  Her caregiving work leads her towards comatose patient Patrick (Jackson Gallagher) who seemingly is unresponsive to outside stimuli but when the doctor and matron aren’t looking the wide-eyed vegetable begins spitting a pattern of communication almost like morse code.  Updating the timeline to the modern age with a computer keyboard rather than a typewriter, soon Patrick begins typing secret messages to Kathy and begins to meddle with her life outside of the clinic which she grows increasingly repelled by the doctor’s illicit malpractice.  Soon however, Patrick’s power over the clinic intensifies to a fever pitch, resulting in numerous gruesome deaths and a lover melting his hands on a stove.

Far more overtly gothic in tone with the clinic itself looking more like an old dark house kind of insane asylum rather than the modern medical office of the first film but close to the wackiness of the Italian “sequel”, Patrick: Evil Awakens is more or less the first film again with the prologue saved for the finale in a startlingly grisly naked electrocution death.  Sporting panoramic 2.35:1 widescreen cinematography by Garry Richards and a completely overqualified soundtrack by legendary Brian De Palma composer Pino Donaggio, the film has the look of a modern gothic horror thriller with the clinic itself taking on a haunted mansion aura replete with dark clouds to augment the gloomy tone.  The film also utilizes a far more polished production design than the regional feel of the original film though at times it feels more like a film set than a clinic.
Sharni Vinson as the film’s heroine is, like the character in the 1978 film, resourceful and quick witted even when it seems like she or others aren’t in complete control of their own actions.  Charles Dance is probably the most accomplished character actor in the piece and seeing him in the role of the doctor reminded me of Clemens from Alien 3 and made me wonder if this version of Patrick might bite his head off.  Jackson Gallagher as this Patrick is less intimidating than Robert Thompson’s wide-eyed freak but the CG department does a lot with his eyes to signify when he’s taking over via telekinesis and the actor has since gone on to a successful sitcom television career. 
Released by Umbrella Entertainment which has also since gone on to become one of the world’s top leading boutique labels for home video releases, Patrick: Evil Awakens opened to generally mixed reviews.  While polished and dynamic with a stronger visual sense than the previous two films, there’s still something amiss about this new “improved” redux.  Clearly the documentary filmmaker turned fictional feature director loves Ozploitation with Patrick being among the first few to popularize the subgenre internationally and he gets great performances out of his ensemble cast members. 
Some of the telegraphed scares poorly rendered via CG like a car going off of a cliff tend to work against the film going for visual effects shots beyond the budget’s means.  The Pino Donaggio score is terrific but you can always just buy the soundtrack album and listen to that on its own.  Not to say this remake is a bad effort, just that it never quite reaches the unexpected regional heights of Richard Franklin’s still seminal Ozploitation epic.  Generally a decent facelift of a renowned little horror classic but of this director’s oeuvre I’m personally more enamored with his nonfiction work. 
In the end, of the loosely connected Patrick film dynasty, it is unquestionably the first one that still reigns supreme.  If you have the stomach and sanitary means, Patrick Still Lives is bonkers but don’t say we didn’t warn you.  Third one is fair with a good score and great gore effects but it never quite reaches the intensity or scares of the first.  An unusual trilogy of films that proved the Aussies also had a thing or two to say about the psychological telekinetic horror thriller even the Americans didn’t think of.

--Andrew Kotwicki