Director: Richard Franklin
Starring: Susan Penhaligon, Robert Helpmann, Rod Mullinar, Bruce Barry, Julia Blake and Robert Thompson
Patrick is a supernatural thriller-horror that tells the story of a comatosed patient who can control the world around him with his mind. The film isn’t about this though, the film is about the misogyny of the 1970s and how subtle and blended into society that is, a theme that is still relevant in the world today. Kathie Jacquard, played by Susan Penhaligon (A Fine Romance, A Soldier of Orange) is caught in a world run by the men around her. She can’t get anyone to believe that Patrick has psychokinetic powers, even her boyfriend who believes that someone can levitate, won’t believe her and it’s obvious why.
There are moments where another nurse is trying to look after Patrick, plugs in a heater which fuses only for the doctor to yell at her and send her home. Kathie’s soon to be ex-husband breaks into her flat and attacks her, believing that all women have a rape fantasy. Just to name a few moments. The whole film is filled with uncomfortable moments with men abusing with little consequence. Patrick himself only wants Kathie to himself.
Three years before Kathie gets her job at the hospital, Patrick kills his mum and her boyfriend not wanting to share her with anyone else. This is the moment that put him in a coma, although it is never explained completely why. When Kathie tries to discuss this with the doctor, he dismisses her and then goes on to explain why Patrick reacts to being touched, not only by telling her, but showing her by killing a live frog in front of her and shocking it so it jumps from her hand. He then tells her not to get ‘wet knees’ from a dead frog. He talks to her as if she is an idiot, and there’s no real need for it.
Watching this in 2021 the killing of the frog is one of the more shocking moments, mainly because you know they couldn’t have had effects to make it look that convincing and it must have been real. There is another moment later in the film involving another dead frog, so if you’re squeamish or don’t like the idea of animals being hurt for no real reason then this is probably not worth watching.
The story in itself is decent. Kathie is takes a job at the local hospital (The matron doesn’t want to hire her, as she doesn’t have a stable domestic life, but guess who overrides that decision…) and ends up taking a shine to Patrick, and the mystery that involves him spitting whenever anyone gets closer or touches him. A series of odd occurrences then take place, leading Kathie to believe that there is more going on than what meets the eye. The truth is finally made clear once Patrick speaks to her through her typewriter, taking control of her at first to type out the words and then the machine itself.
The pacing is a bit slow and could be done with some tightening up. At nearly 2 hours, not a lot really happens and that’s what stops this from being a great film. It drags along, and the tension doesn’t sustain itself. It’s doesn’t have you engaged from start to finish and it’s such a shame. This is something that could be remade today, with very little changes to the script and could be a fantastic thriller.
Directed by Richard Franklin, who would go on to direct Road Games and Psycho II, Patrick is a memorable and interesting film. It’s so close to be excellent, but it’s still enjoyable to watch. The performances are all great, the more tense moments work and the final sequence is good enough that it overrides the poor pacing issues.