Reviews

Reviews

Patrick

Patrick

Richard Franklin

Australia, 1978

Credits

Review by Rumsey Taylor

Posted on 11 July 2004

Source Elite Entertainment DVD

Patrick, of the title, lies still and comatose in a hospital bed, connected to proverbial bleeping equipment, and stares blankly towards the camera. He is the film’s primary character, utters not one line, and remains in this position in the majority of the film.

He is, however, responsible for the conflict and violence. Like Carrie, Patrick possesses a heightened Extrasensory Perception, and, like most other cinematic incarnations of this ability, wields it for self-preservation and vengeful justice.

In the only scene where actor Robert Thompson displays his human mobility, Patrick lies in a room, beside one in which his mother initiates copulation with her lover. This action triggers anger, and is given little establishment. Patrick’s furor and resulting murder of the couple is curious, though results in the signifying feature of the film: Patrick’s coma.

Flash-forward some three years and we find Kathy, an applicant for a nursing position in a hospital, perhaps fleeing from her husband following a recent separation. As a trial she is given the duty of overseeing Patrick — now the hospital’s most controversial patient, judging from the opinions of the head nurse and head doctor; both want the costly patient dead. Kathy senses Patrick’s veiled consciousness, and inspires communicative actions in him.

Patrick does not subscribe to the conventions of horror exploitation — a genre implied by misrepresentative quotes on the reverse side of the DVD (the film is rated PG, and is not “Extremely Bloody”). It is a film that resists visceral shocks, favoring the horror of its psychology. A shame, for its psychology is only slightly horrific.

There is a narrative hypocrisy that polarizes receptions of Patrick. Early on, Patrick’s past troubles elicit our sympathy. This is forwarded by his placement in a hospital led by just the just most evil doctor imaginable and an equally malevolent nurse. Eventually, however, Patrick manipulates his sole proponent. Kathy is the only one who successfully communicates with him, and this development leads to a unique connection between the two; for her it is a professional one, for him it is romantic. Because Kathy is another established and, more importantly, less conniving character, it is she who earns the camera’s sympathy, and Patrick’s climactic throes (most of which are seen in the film’s trailer, falsely ascertaining its action) are violently driven. He is firstly motivated by justifiable intentions — they become selfish and harmful.

Despite its exotic location (filmed in director Richard Franklin’s native Australia), the film’s sets are sterile and cold. (This is excused, perhaps, given the film’s hospital location.) There are few instances of directorial ingenuity: an early and successfully evocative shot finds the pulsing bed frame throttling the wall immediately behind Patrick’s head (the image is a clever manifestation of a killer’s last straw). This the exception, the film is laden with direction, editing, and scoring that compile to form an amateurish effort for all involved.

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