1979's little-know, same-titled Australian cult film receives a gothic update with "Patrick" (also being billed in promotional materials as "Patrick: Evil Awakens"). Director Mark Hartley, a documentarian making his debut in fictional features, appears to be more than competent and gets admirable work out of his cast, but his enthusiasm appears to have turned to overzealousness. Even when subtlety is called for, Hartley orchestrates with rampant, uncontrolled bombast, the string-crazed music score from the talented Pino Dinaggio (2013's "Passion
") going over the top in a way that causes unwanted laughs. If the far-flung premise exhibits no detectable restraint and the script by Justin King falls the way of kooky instead of dignified, credit should at least go to the filmmakers' ability to hold their audience's attention. Alas, what is being pondered while one is immersed in the goings-on isn't always positive.
Kathy Jacquard (Sharni Vinson) has just been hired as the new nurse at cliffside Roget Clinic, a hospital for patients in vegetative states. Matron Cassidy (Rachel Griffiths), daughter of residing veteran Dr. Roget (Charles Dance), warns her the pay is minimal and the hours abominable, but Kathy is looking for a change and jumps at the opportunity. One of her patients, she notices right away, is not like the others. The smooth, toned Patrick (Jackson Gallagher) allegedly killed his mother and her lover before a suicide attempt that left him virtually brain-dead. With his eyes permanently open and a spitting motion his only activity, Kathy begins to sense he may be more aware of his surroundings than he is putting on. When a series of inexplicable events start occurring, she begins to suspect Patrick is telekinetically calling the shots. Forced into electro-shock therapy sessions with Dr. Roget, Patrick's powers are intensifying all the more. He wants Kathy for himself and, as Matron Cassidy tells her, "The only thing more dangerous than his hate is his love."
"Patrick" is oddball in a sometimes nonsensical way. Although set in modern times, why is the production design and the way the characters behave appear to be right out of the 1940s? Why do the patients at the clinic lay forever shirtless in hospital beds without covers or anything to drape them? Why is Kathy so quick to forgive a potential new suitor, Dr. Brian Knight (Martin Crewes), after she meets him at a gallery and he spits directly in her face? Meanwhile, Matron Cassidy is prone to nervous shakes so bad that she spills a tray of cups and pills, something at which Kathy does not so much as bat an eyelash. Futhermore, nefarious or not, how is Dr. Roget able to get away with openly performing shock therapy? If the film is consistently murky about its logic, the performances and pacing are on point. As Kathy, Sharni Vinson winningly plays another memorable heroine after her breakthrough work in 2013's "You're Next
," while Charles Dance (2011's "Your Highness
") and Rachel Griffiths (2013's "Saving Mr. Banks
") are deliciously suspicious as Roget and Cassidy. For someone who mostly lays in a bed, Jackson Gallagher has a striking look; it's easy to see why Kathy would be at first drawn to him, and then fearful of what he is capable of. "Patrick" isn't one for necessarily spinning its wheels, but it too often hurts itself by jumping the rails into insanity. What should be pleasingly creepy instead becomes farcical. In all facets of a movie's production, sometimes less is more.