When it was first released in 1979, the Australian movie Patrick was one of several thrillers (Carrie, The Fury, Scanners, etc.) dealing with telekinesis. While it was largely treated as exploitation fare (I saw it at the drive-in), it was a worldwide hit and is now considered an important film from first-time director Richard Franklin, who later gave us Road Games, Cloak & Dagger and Psycho II.
It doesn’t seem to me to be at the top of the list for a remake, but I guess anything these days is fair game. The fact that the country of origin remade it instead of the United States lends some credibility to the project. And it turns out to be a much better movie. It’s not that the original is particularly dated, but it plays now as long, wordy and lacking much suspense. The remake takes what is in essence the very same movie and subtly tweaks it to make a tight, exciting horror thriller.
The influence of Hitchcock is felt in both versions. This is intentional in Patrick (1978) with a setting that resembles the Bates house, scenes that suggest Psycho, and a score reminiscent of Bernard Hermann. Some of these influences are automatically imported into Patrick (2013); however, first-time feature director Mark Hartley (documentaries and video shorts) takes creative camera angles to a new, sometimes distracting level. (We look down on events a lot.)
In both movies, young Patrick lies comatose in the mysterious Roget Clinic. The new nurse, Kathy Jacquard, discovers there’s more going on in his head than anyone believes. When Patrick falls for her, the result is death and destruction.
In the original, we learn that Patrick is not an innocent. He murdered his mother and her lover by tossing a space heater into their bathtub. In the remake, this information is held until the end, more effectively creating a mystery throughout the movie. However, the remake does begin with a murder absent in the original, and this creates a second mystery slow burning in the background.
The remake also delays wordy exposition about Kathy when she arrives to work at the clinic. It lets us learn about her as the story progresses. While her history is not necessarily a mystery like the other two, it’s at least something we can discover by watching the movie instead of having it spelled out for us at the beginning.
It’s also more clear in the remake that Dr. Roget has cruel, ulterior motives for Patrick, which more effectively presents him as the bad guy. It helps that he’s played by Charles Dance, a great actor, with true menace rather than simple incompetence. His relationship with Matron Cassidy (another great, Rachel Griffiths) is also better-defined, making her more sympathetic instead of just plain mean.
Patrick (2014), also known as Patrick: Evil Awakens, has not only more mayhem, but more creative and grisly mayhem. In particular, the fate of radio show psychologist Brian Wright, who was a neurosurgeon in the original, is quite effective. I suppose one could argue that the remake holds the audience’s hand, leaving less to the imagination. But in my opinion, it’s simply more entertaining.
It’s always interesting for me to compare remakes with their originals, and this process was a lot of fun with Patrick. The previously-mentioned subtle tweaks are easy to pinpoint and each have definable reasons. For example, in the original, Captain Fraser is an old patient who resides next door to Patrick in the clinic. He scurries about the hallways and it’s mentioned in passing that he always has someplace to go.
In the remake, Fraser has the responsibility of turning on the lamp at the lighthouse. His alarm regularly sounds to send him on his mission, which provides a perfect plot point for the action late in the movie. In the original, he switched on the Emergency Entrance sign, but for no known reason other than to occasionally show the word “trance” flickering in the neon (and, I suppose, to add an eerie crackling sound to the atmosphere).
Patrick (1978) is full of unintentional humor and lapses in logic. When Kathy (Susan Penhaligon) rushes from Patrick’s room one time, she tells him, “Wait here”, as if he could go anywhere. And when Matron Cassidy (Julia Blake) reprimands Kathy for what she’s done in Patrick’s room, her punishment is to continue working with Patrick instead of to be removed from his case.
Patrick (2013) is more logically consistent. Even though it expunges the entire euthanasia debate from the original, it includes its own jabs about life and death. Perhaps that’s one reason Patrick (1978) is considered an important film. I don’t anticipate such accolades for the remake; however, it’s more of what I want in a horror movie and I think you’ll find it rewarding nonetheless.