Appellate Judge Tom Becker's word processor typed this review by itself.
Disease, like God, moves in mysterious ways.
I love this time of year. The leaves are changing, the air is crisp, and the studios are hemorrhaging horror DVDs. Synapse recently has been re-releasing some out-of-print sets originally from Elite, including Strange Behavior and Thirst. Add to that Patrick, a culty little post-Carrie telekinesis tale from Australia.
Disturbed by his the raucous sounds of his mother and her lover enjoying themselves, young Patrick expresses his displeasure by tossing a space heater into their bathwater. Zip, zap, and Patrick's an orphan. He falls into a vegetative state, and he now resides at a private hospital.
Enter young nurse Kathy Jacquard (Susan Penhaligon, Nasty Habits). Newly split from her husband, Kathy is hired at this sanitarium, and her primary job is watching over the insentient Patrick (Robert Thompson, Roadgames). After spending some time with him, Kathy becomes convinced that Patrick is trying to communicate with her.
While others scoff at this, Patrick, indeed, is no mere legume. His evilness is as strong as it was the day he made soup out of his mom, and he's developed supernatural powers. Without moving a muscle or blinking an eye, Patrick can cause havoc far from his hospital bed. He knows what people are thinking and doing. No one in his orbit is safe.
Especially Kathy, who has become the object of Patrick's affection.
Essentially a character comedy with supernatural plot machinations grafted on, Patrick is a twisty, quirky little film that's not especially horrifying but is well-made and works better than it should.
Horror films in the '70s were noted as much for their characters and stories as they were for violence and mayhem. The most memorable, such as Halloween and Black Christmas were really more suspenseful and atmospheric than gory. Telekinesis was also a popular topic, with Brian De Palma making two films that revolved around characters' abilities to use mental powers to make things move, a very good one (Carrie) and a forgettable, overwrought one (The Fury).
Like De Palma, Patrick director Richard Franklin was a Hitchcock devotee. Patrick frequently references Hitchcock's films, sometimes in obvious ways, sometimes subtly. In his commentary, Franklin points out a number of Hitchcock references and other sly bits of humor that you might miss on a single viewing. It's these little touches that make Patrick a cut above the standard low-budget supernatural thriller.
In and of itself, telekinesis is not especially scary. Carrie, the mother all telekinesis films, is best remembered for the performances of Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, as well as the entertaining mayhem of the prom night revenge, but I don't know that many people found it especially terrifying. Likewise, Patrick's scary scenes trade on a lot of silliness. Patrick psychically trashes somebody's apartment (off-screen), tries to drown one of Kathy's suitors (a particularly laughable bit), and fiddles with some electronic and mechanical devices. Hardly the stuff of nightmares.
And yet, Patrick is just eccentric enough to work. It's well-acted and directed and features a nice balance of creepy and silly moments. Franklin peoples his film with a nice mix of bizarre characters, played by genuine character actors, and places Kathy as the level-headed center of an off-kilter storm.
This isn't a film that grabs you by the throat, but rather grows on you as it goes on. More fun than frightening, it's a worthwhile watch.
As I mentioned, this is a re-release of an Elite edition that is now out-of-print. The only thing here that's new here is that the transfer is Anamorphic. It still looks pretty mediocre, however. The Dolby Mono track is pretty weak, and the lack of subtitles a problem, as always.
The 112-minute version of Patrick on this disc was the cut that played in Europe; it was not released theatrically in this form in the U.S. For its U.S. release, Patrick was edited down and given a PG rating; I'm guessing they eliminated the space-heater murder, which featured a fair amount of gruesomeness (the only real grue in the film) and brief male and female frontal nudity. In addition, all the British and Australian actors were re-dubbed by Americans; snippets of this can be heard in the American trailer, included on this set. Besides the trailers, we get the aforementioned Richard Franklin commentary, which is pretty entertaining. Franklin's emulation of Hitchcock paid off nicely. Thanks to Patrick, he was hired to direct Psycho II.
Perhaps because it was cut up for its American release and the uncut version not readily available on home video, Patrick developed a reputation as something of a cult film. If you go into it expecting a newfound gem of terror, you're going to be disappointed. Taken on its own terms, Patrick is clever and entertaining '70's schlock. Definitely worth at least a rental.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary with Director Richard Franklin
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