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John’s Horror Corner: Patrick (1978), a mediocre medical-mystery horror about a comatose patient with telekinetic powers and a crush on his nurse.

January 26, 2020

MY CALL: This was one of those great ideas of the 70s that may have been creepy then but just feels kind of boring now. MORE MOVIES LIKE Patrick: One may venture the sequel Patrick Still Lives (1980) along with Demon Seed (1977) and The Manitou (1978). There is also the recent remake Patrick: Evil Awakens (2013), along with The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) and Eli (2019) for more recent fare.

I never even knew this movie existed until I saw Patrick: Evil Awakens (2013) and, while learning about the film online, discovered it was a remake. Now having seen this 1978 “classic,” I can’t say I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of it. It’s rather mediocre; interesting but slow. But I imagine it would have been much more exciting at the time of its release.

Newly employed as a nurse at the very private Roget Clinic, Kathy (Susan Penhaligon; Count Dracula, The Uncanny) is hired by the cold Matron Cassidy (Julia Blake; Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark) to tend the clinic’s comatose patients which serve as Doctor Roget’s (Robert Helpmann) research subjects.

As Nurse Kathy comes to communicate with the presumed brain-dead Patrick, Patrick develops a sick fondness for her which he relays through a typewriter. He hints the fate of her boyfriend, professes his love, threatens and even urges Kathy to “join him.” Of course, he’s brain dead! So, no one believes this to be true… not until Patrick assaults them with his powers.

Director Richard Franklin (Psycho II, Road Games) takes his time developing the story. I enjoyed the development, but it was slow. Unfortunately, there is little horror payoff for our patience—the shocks are few. Gore isn’t abundant nor does the movie rely on it, but it’s effective when present.

Even the very depictions of telekinesis develop from weak spiritual tremors, to poltergeist jolts (laughably launching a potted plant across a room), to complete sorcerous control—for example, forcing a man across town to grab a hot pot with his bare hands. But none of it is ever very engaging. When Patrick tries to drown a man from across town, it comes off as someone swimming circles underwater and then gasping for air.

So again, neat story but boring execution.


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