Though I did purposely group my two Shocktober Ozploitation selections together, the fact they were both written by the same person was a complete coincidence. I had no idea that Everett De Roche was apparently the only guy in Australia allowed to write horror films. Not only did De Roche write Patrick and Long Weekend but he was also responsible for the Ozploitation cult classics Road Games and Razorback. What’s crazy to me is that if you were to ask me what I’d consider the top four most notable Ozploitation films, I probably would have gone with the four I just mentioned. What was De Roche’s secret to success? Let’s see if we can find the answer through telekinesis in my brief review of Patrick.
Patrick (Robert Thompson) is a creepy young man who never blinks. In fact, Patrick doesn’t do much of anything. This is because Patrick has been comatose for three years after electrocuting his mother and her lover while they made “splashy splash” in the tub. It’s never clearly explained how this event turned Patrick into a potato. Was it a side effect of trauma? Was it self-induced? Is he faking it? All we know is that he spends every moment of ever day lying in a bed in a Melbourne hospital almost entirely unresponsive with his eyes open. I’m not entirely sure if it’s possible for someone to be in a coma with their eyes open but it certainly adds to the creepiness of the film.
Joining the hospital’s nursing staff is a young woman named Kathie (Susan Penhaligon) who takes a keen interest in Patrick. Kathie believes that Patrick does indeed show responsiveness and ends up spending a great deal of time in his presence. Eventually Patrick even manages to communicate with Kathie by controlling a typewriter through telekinesis. Patrick begins to fall for Kathie but soon grows bitter after realizing that will never happen considering the state he’s in. Naturally, Patrick instead uses his powers to telekinetically attack the people in Kathie’s life along with torturing the ignorant hospital staff.
Patrick is a slow burn of a movie. Events unfold slowly and most of the crazy stuff doesn’t happen until later in the film. What does keep the film afloat is its use of dynamic Hitchcockian angles courtesy of Donald McAlpine, a man that would later find success in the states as a cinematographer of everything from Mrs. Doubtfire to Ender’s Game. This isn’t to overlook the sharp eye of the film’s director Richard Franklin, a self-proclaimed Hitchcock fanatic. It’s said that it was the success of this film that led to Franklin eventually securing the director’s chair for Psycho II.
I admire Patrick for its patience and restraint, much like Everett De Roche’s script for Long Weekend. Unfortunately, Patrick shares another common trait with Long Weekend, “There are too many scenes where nothing happens!” I think it takes a certain kind of person to enjoy slow, brooding, psychological horror films. Me? I have a short attention span and though I can appreciate films like this I’m not always as entranced as others. Maybe I need to spend more time gazing into Patrick’s hypnotic stare.
I cannot look away.