CHUCK ANOTHER SPOILER ON THE BARBIE
Though it's never been one of my favourite Ozsploitation oddities - for me it's not in the same league as Simon Wincer's Harlequin, a bonkers reimagining of the Rasputin story - I do rather like Richard Franklin's 1978 psychokinesis horror. It's not great: it's got huge flaws, including too much in the way of dry talk and an ending that rather lacks impact, but in places it's quite fun. Mark Hartley's remake comes from a deep love and knowledge of Australian horror movies, as demonstrated in the documentary Not Quite Hollywood: it's a lot faster, a lot jumpier and a hell of a lot louder. But it sticks to the basic story (some scenes are verbatim), has the always enjoyable Charles Dance as a mad scientist, a clutch of nice injokes, and a glorious Pino Donaggio score (though it could have used turning down a little), and the end result is terrific fun which makes up in incident what it loses in subtlety.
Patrick is a long-term and incurable coma patient, "a hundred and sixty pounds of limp meat hanging off a comatose brain": completely unresponsive to any stimulus and in the care of mad Dr Roget (Charles Dance) who is seeking answers to the usual eternal questions of life and death by basically using barbaric electric shock treatment on him. But he does start responding to a new nurse (Sharni Vinson): firstly spitting in a once-for-yes, twice-for-no fashion, then telekinetically typing through her computer - and causing the deaths of other people in her life...
While the 1978 film is fairly restrained and low-key in places, Mark Hartley's version doesn't let up at all: scarcely two minutes can go by without someone looming out of the edge of the frame, waking up from a violent nightmare or suddenly appearing out of nowhere, usually with a loud dischordant sting on the soundtrack. It's certainly effective but that "Boo!" technique can get wearing after a while. And the Pino Donaggio music is pretty full-on as well: as typically overdramatic and beautiful as some of his scores for Brian de Palma, though there are several points which could honestly have done without it. More enjoyable are the little injokes like naming a character Penhaligon after Susan, the original's star, or having Charles Dance listen to the original's Brian May soundtrack through his headphones. (Robert Helpmann, the mad scientist in the 1978 version, is namechecked with the name of the local hospital.)
Patrick is noisy and jumpy rather than creepy or scary or unsettling, but it's basically good fun: big, loud, and thoroughly unsubtle, which makes it a pretty enjoyable Friday night horror movie at the cinema, though I suspect it'll more likely go straight to DVD at some point. Shorter and more graphic than the original, it's not necessarily better but as a brasher, punchier variation on the same theme it's perfectly enjoyable.