Patrick (1978)

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Patrick is one of a handful of Australian horror movies I’ve been eager to watch ever since I saw the Ozploitation doc a few years back. It’s directed by Richard Franklin who also helmed the fantastic Roadgames and underrated Psycho II and written by Everett De Roche who scripted some of the most well known Australian genre movies the late 70s and early 80s had to offer. Now Patrick is an exciting thriller in the tradition of Hitchcock and early De Palma. The hook? After murdering his Mother and her lover, Patrick has regressed into a coma but seems to be continuing his rampage through telekinesis. It’s upto a young nurse to get to the bottom of Patrick’s psychosis.

That concept is full of cinematic potential and Franklin really milks it for all it’s worth. The editing is fierce and there are lots of smash-bang-wallop moments, which give the film a dangerous edge. Sometimes the concept works against the action, however, as Patrick’s primary means of communicating with our heroine is by typing words on a typewriter. So cue long scenes of the protagonist watching a typewriter clip clap away until the final message is revealed. This gets a bit tiresome, especially in the film’s climax when everything is moving fast…apart from that damn typewriter. But no matter, it comes with the territory.

I really enjoyed the film’s sick sense of humour. Powell and Pressburger favourite Robert Helpmann plays a cantankerous doctor who gets some great lines as do the other nutty patients who reside on Patrick’s ward. It has a real madhouse vibe and, as with the best telekinesis movies, has a current of psychological electricity running through it that is quite exciting. I do think the film is a bit too long and would be much tighter if it were closer to 90 minutes than 120 but it ends with an absolutely smashing jump-scare. A cool and technically efficient Aussie thriller that deserves a wider audience. Might check out the remake, hopefully the typewriter has been replaced by quicker text messages.

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