Melbourne 2013 Review: PATRICK Offers Safe Chills And Tame Thrills
Patrick seems to have been a hard sell, but Hartley hit the ground running, and the film was efficiently and passionately made. Patrick heralds pure unpretentious genre cinema in Australia and while it is refreshing to see an Australian film that relies heavily on classic genre tropes, Patrick still lacks the insanity and energy required to keep its momentum.
A newly hired nurse, Kathy (Sharni Vinson), is hired on the spot by the mysterious Doctor Roget (Charles Dance) and Matron Cassidy (Rachel Griffiths, with her own take on Nurse Ratchet) to oversee coma patients. During her induction she meets the comic relief, lazy happy-go-lucky Nurse Williams, who shows her around and loads each scene with exposition. Kathy ends up caring for the comatose Patrick (Jackson Gallagher), a handsome young man with an ice cold gaze that puts his facial muscles to the test.
All is not what it seems of course, and the first half of the film is steeped in slow burning mystery. Strange occurrences and uncanny moments give rise to sudden violence and mysterious deaths, and when the mystery is unveiled it is too late and Kathy is already caught in a bizarre web of lies, secrets and obsession.
The location is an excellent one, a Gothic hospital that has many mysterious rooms, gloomy corridors and disturbing patient wards. The nurses' outfits and patient garb are also strangely presented, adding to the atmosphere. The eccentric score enhances all of this but feels less effective outside of the hospital scenes.
Patrick's best moments come from within the hospital, where a bizarre telekinetic presence threatens. Roget performs horrible tests on Patrick and keeps Kathy at a distance. Meanwhile the matron stalks the corridors. It's an uncanny place that feels both routinely familiar and immediately dangerous and the inhabitants portray their comfort and unease in equal measure.
There are some poor computer effects employed in a few of the constant telekinetic attacks, but they still convey the immediate danger effectively. The film ends in the hospital amidst multiple revelations that come thick and fast and conclude proceedings well enough.
Outside the hospital however, amidst Kathy's pointless personal drama, the film falters considerably. These scenes rely on the same jump-scares the hospital scenario better utilizes as well as repetitive dream sequences. Kathy's male colleagues are introduced and are essentially victims and conduits for the main narrative - they aren't well fleshed out and hardly feel like genuine human beings. There are bizarre scenes, in the local bar and in an ocean museum of all places, where the stilted dialogue falters. Perhaps this is the point of the jerk male trope in horror, and it does enhance Kathy's position of power, but, regardless, it is not very entertaining.
Ultimately Patrick is an effective 'Gothic chiller' fueled by passion and homage, but not entirely as captivating as it should be.