Remaking one of Tarantino’s favourite Australian films is a big call. The original slugline says it all: “Patrick is nearly dead… And he still kills!” These few words sum up the cheesy, schlocky glory of the ’70s and ’80s era of Australian genre movies, now bannered ‘Ozploitation’. This low-budget wave exploited generous government tax incentives and cinematic stereotypes, smashing together car crashes, full-frontal nudity, over-the-top foley and ridiculous gunfights into unabashed pieces of filmic fun.
Director Mark Hartley’s doco Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (2008) conveyed the guts of this lost era with mega-energy. But his remake of 1978 horror classic Patrick (which was a truly awesome Psycho ripoff) doesn’t quite get there. Patrick’s a comatose vegetable using telekinesis to communicate (using social media of course because it’s 2013 after all) and control Sharni Vinson’s spooked nurse. The film’s best moments of lo-fi horror gore and laugh-out-loud sexual freakiness motion to Ozploitation’s glory days with great affection, but Hartley seems to have settled for a B-grade thriller that will appeal to a wide mass. In the meantime, he’s missed the out-there adventurousness and winking, mocking self-awareness that could’ve made his Patrick a new cult obsession.
As Patrick, Jackson Gallagher is oddly beautiful: pristine and eerie with flying saucer eyes. Rachel Griffiths fully commits to a wonderfully theatrical, Nicolas Cage-style performance as the pasty, watery-eyed nurse who could be either a total villain or a total trauma victim. Her murderous red lippy also lights up the film’s lovely, Gothic monochrome design. But the script never gives her the chance to truly let loose a la Cage’s now immortal “Not the beeeees!” line in 2006’s The Wicker Man. Patrick is crying out to go off the Richter scale – less irritating ex-soapie stars and more weird nudity and fake blood. But although Hartley plays it safe, it’s pretty fun and a must-see for horror fans.
BY LAUREN CARROLL HARRIS
Patrick is in cinemas now.