There seem to be a few distinct categories where horror film remakes are concerned:
A. A remake of an absolute classic that outrages the fans from the word go. Like that Psycho remake or perhaps Evil Dead or Dawn of the Dead, although they're actually pretty bad-ass horror movies, remakes or not.
B. A remake of a decent or well-remembered horror movie that makes people realize that, well, movies are a business. Most of the horror remakes fall into this category. Carrie, Fright Night, Amityville, Elm Street, and on and on (semingly) forever.
C. A remake of a little-known or cult classic-style horror flick that may annoy some of the old-school purists, but doesn't even register as a remake to 85% of the viewers. That insane remake of The Wicker Man certainly qualifies here, as does the brand-new remake of the 1978 Australian thriller known simply as Patrick.
Fortunately the new Patrick is a whole lot more fun (and a whole lot less silly) than that amusing yet oddly misguided Wicker Man remake. And unless you're A) Australian, B) a huge horror nut, or C) both, you've probably never even heard of Patrick (1978), so let's just drop all this remake talk and get on with it!
Presented as both an earnest homage to the original Patrick and a sweet love letter to the latter-era Hammer films, Mark Hartley's Patrick is nobody's idea of a "subtle" horror movie, but if you're in the mood for evil doctors, mysterious murders, insidious weirdos around every corner, and enough telekinetic carnage to fill two Carrie remakes, this expeditious and consistently amusing horror cinema throwback should keep you happy for 90 minutes.
Gothic, pulpy, and boasting more aural jolts than any film truly needs, Patrick is about a comatose man, a sweet-natured nurse, a devious doctor, and (of course) a wonderfully creepy and isolated facility as the setting. Our title character is mired firmly inside of a coma, but he certainly doesn't seem to be all that "clueless" once a pretty new nurse shows up. Patrick is able to communicate, if only with Nurse Kathy, through spitting, which is gross, and by throwing furniture across the room with his super-diabolical powers of comatose telekinetic... magic. Or something.
Suffice to say that Patrick is inordinately and actively unhappy for a man in a coma, and he certainly does find novel ways in which to express his displeasure with Kathy (Sharni Vinson, effortlessly likable), Dr. Roget (Charles Dance, wonderfully evil) and Head Nurse Cassidy (Rachel Griffiths, powerfully creepy).To their credit, director Hartley and screenwriter Justin King introduce several new plot threads and character wrinkles to the original Patrick concept, and many of the new characters and motivations serve to keep the seasoned horror fans happy. Like it or not, this Patrick is not a carbon-copy remake.
Mr. Hartley has already proven his affection for Australian genre cinema with his excellent documentary Not Quite Hollywood, and he brings a similar enthusiasm to his first narrative feature. Aside from a lovely score that's leaned on a bit too firmly, the technical merits of this remake are low-key (and low-budget) but impressive all the same. Hartley, for example, takes great effort to sweep his camera across the Roget Clinic's endless vacant hallways and imposing operating rooms, and there's little denying that Patrick is edited in crisp and efficient fashion. (In other words, the remake is not as dull as the original Patrick sometimes is.)
Laden with simple jump scares and backed by a tone that's both brutally violent and darkly amusing, Patrick is a good example of how to remake an obscure but admired horror flick: remake a little, rewrite a lot, always respect the source material, and if you can actually address a few of the original flick's shortcomings in the process, well that's just a cool bonus.