Patrick is Alive!
Patrick (Robert Thompson) is a strange young man that one night decides to murder his mother and her boyfriend by tossing a plugged-in space heater into the tub where the two of them are frolicking. Patrick immediately falls into a coma so deep he is considered dead, a vegetable. He is kept alive by machines in a small hospital and totally unresponsive except for the occasional act of involuntary spitting. A young nurse named Kathy (Susan Penhaligon), recently separated from her husband, begins to work at the hospital and takes an immediate liking to Patrick. He, apparently, takes a liking to her, as well. You see, Patrick may be in a coma, but he has psychic abilities, and they manifest when he encounters Kathy. He starts communicating with her using a typewriter left in his room with which she writes her daily reports. Soon, Patrick wants to become more intimate. He starts affecting things in her life outside of the hospital, attacking her estranged husband through his psychic abilities, and others who he is jealous of. He tries to control and protect Kathy in his own, demented way. She pleads with hospital officials to listen to her, to take her claims seriously, but they do not. Only when it comes close to being too late does she finally take action, but will it be in time to stop Patrick?
Patrick is an Australian horror film that plays mostly like a Hitchcockian thriller. If not for the blood and occasional bouts of violence, I would say it wasn’t a horror film at all. This is a drama, and a long one at that, played out between two people and affecting the lives of those surrounding them. Penhaligon is absolutely enchanting and riveting as Karen, a lonely, lost, aimlessly drifting young woman, perfectly portrayed in just a few affecting looks and glances. She is drawn to Patrick and he to her because they are souls searching for something to connect to. Robert Helpmann plays Doctor Roget, Karen’s immediate superior and the physician in charge of Patrick, and he is delightful, his dry wit carrying the movie through moments that would otherwise be dull and expository. I point out the acting because really, this is what holds up the film. There are plenty of suspenseful and riveting moments, but they are spread out during this (too long) running time, so it is the characters who must carry the narrative drive. And they do, most excellently. What you’ve got is a slow-burning thriller and your investment in it will be as deep as your ability to get into its vibe and feel. I liked it but found it tedious at times. Cut about fifteen minutes out and things would have moved at a much brisker, and more interesting pace.
Patrick is an interesting film and one you should really watch if you’re into more methodical horror films. It doesn’t beat you over the head with violence (although the violence is there) and doesn’t drown you in blood (it drips it on you, instead), but it is compelling and interesting, sold by terrific acting and moody filmmaking. A solid film, maybe even a classic.