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Exclusive “PATRICK: EVIL AWAKENS” Set Visit, Part One: The Newcomers

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On the set of PATRICK: EVIL AWAKENS, Mark Hartley’s re-imagining of the Australian horror classic being lensed at Melbourne’s Docklands Studios on the eve of Christmas 2012, it’s understandably quiet. That’s because all available eyes and cameras are focused on Jackson Gallagher, the young Australian actor playing Patrick, as he stares unblinkingly upward from his hospital bed while nurse Kathy Jacquard (YOU’RE NEXT’s Sharni Vinson) chats away amiably to her apparently nonresponsive charge.

The next shot reveals an inexplicable movement involving saliva that Nurse Jacquard chooses to ignore in the otherwise dead room. You don’t have to be psychic, or even familiar with the original film written by Everett De Roche and directed by Richard Franklin, to know that telekinetically charged events will soon occur in the new PATRICK, arriving in Stateside theaters and on VOD from Phase 4 Films this Friday, March 14.

The first person Fango meets beyond the darkened and very Gothic corridors of this version of the Roget Clinic—where the actual therapy of patients seems to be secondary to medical experimentation—is screenwriter Justin King. Outside, in the comparatively antiseptic area of the general production office, King explains his apparently continual presence on set. “Well, I wouldn’t have been anywhere else while this was going on. This is the first thing I’ve ever written that has actually been produced, and I have to be here to see that I’m not dreaming.

“It has been a fantastic learning process, too,” he continues. “I have learned so much from the actors. You give them the characters, they have to inhabit them and they then sometimes get a better idea of where that person needs to be than you do. Sitting in conferences with them, tweaking revisions and working through motivations, has just been fantastic. Sometimes, what you have written hasn’t quite gotten there, or isn’t getting them to the moment where it dovetails into the next scene. Discounting them would just be crazy. I don’t know how the big boys work, but I can’t see any better way of working than doing it with your actors, with your director and even with the set designer and props people. It really matters that everyone is involved, everyone has their own viewpoint and everyone is considered.”

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Then, just as if it was scripted, there’s a knock at the door, which opens to reveal Hartley—who needs to urgently confer with King about some lines for Charles Dance, who is playing the still highly obsessive Dr. Roget. Two minutes later, King explains how he came to PATRICK: “I was a researcher on [Hartley’s Ozploitation documentary] NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD and am a long-term friend of Mark’s. Like everyone else, we’d been plugging away for a decade or so, trying to get a feature made. During NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD, we were discussing films we would like to remake, and PATRICK stood out.

“Tony Ginnane was one of the interview subjects of NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD,” he continues, “so we approached him and pitched our idea. He also obviously loved PATRICK, and had himself been trying to get a remake done for quite a while. Five years later, the rest is history. It was, as I suppose it should be, a torturous and hard-won process, but we got here in the end.”

The approach to the new PATRICK has been governed by a deep appreciation for the original. “We don’t think it’s an exploitation film, but there are definitely enough cheap thrills of various grades in there to satisfy the genre. We do respect the genre; we didn’t want to make this a cold, distant, academic exercise. We’d like to celebrate some of the Grand Guignol aspects of horror movies. We don’t want it to be aloof and effete, but we also didn’t want it to be torture porn or a video nasty. We aimed to get some loving attention to detail in there, and Garry Richard’s cinematography is spectacular. There is this beautiful sidelight and there are some pretty horrid events, but they’re covered with an absolutely painterly eye.”

Not only has the filming of PATRICK lived up to his expectations, King says, but, “From what I’ve seen on the shoot, it is completely exceeding anything I could have imagined when I was writing it. We knew we didn’t want to do a shot-by-shot remake, or take the core of the premise and do something entirely new. Our goal was to amplify it and, quite frankly, make it scarier than the original. If you watch that film these days, it doesn’t really have as much power now as it did then, so from the very outset, we wanted a big siege-type situation where there were lots of balls in the air. Patrick holds almost all the cards, and Kathy has to battle her way through hell, through his scorn and his misplaced idea of love, to finally survive. I won’t spoil the ending by saying whether she does or not.

“We worked a lot initially on the last stanza, and we tweaked the parts a fair bit,” he adds. “Most of the original characters are still there. Kathy’s got an ex-boyfriend who is still pursuing her, she’s got a debonair older guy who is interested, she’s got a sort of good-time-girl nurse associate who becomes her friend, there’s the icy, flinty Matron Cassidy, who is played with great fun by Rachel Griffiths, and we’ve got the incredible Charles Dance as Roget. So the ensemble is pretty much the same, but they’ve been given different, not so much personalities, but characterizations. There was some stuff that wouldn’t translate directly from 1978 to now.”

Besides Franklin’s feature, King also sought out Keith Hetherington’s novelization as source material. “Yes! We went back to the book, which greatly expanded on stuff. When you have the luxury of dealing with a novel, you have more opportunities to flesh out backstories, so we’ve taken a little bit from there—which was an interesting place to draw from, because it was a pure novelization.”

Venturing down to the end of the hallway, we enter the makeup FX domain and speak to Larry Van Duynhoven, who previously worked for some time with top Aussie artist Justin Dix (including a stint in the same studio on Jamie Blanks’ STORM WARNING) before branching out on his own with PATRICK. Van Duynhoven, who like King is excited to speak with Fango, immediately notes, “We are only a small team of technicians, so it has been pretty challenging, and at some stages we’ve been working around the clock. We clocked about 110-120 hours straight at one stage. I think it’s the coffee that keeps us going [laughs]. It’s been a blast.

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“There are some pretty nasty effects,” he continues. “We have one character who crushes a wine glass in their hand, which required prosthetics with glass embedded into the skin, and we pumped blood with a blood rig. There’s an emaciated corpse in this film that wasn’t in the original, a few dream sequences that are pretty cool, dressings, dummy heads, a syringe in the eye and the electrocution of one major character at the end. Dr. Roget does crazy stuff in the film too, so prosthetics-wise, it’s pretty good. It’s a mixture of many things, so it’s a fun job to be on.”

PATRICK: EVIL AWAKENS also boasts its share of visual FX, supervised by Steve Cooper. “Besides our effects work,” Cooper reveals, “we also invested in the film, on the basis, firstly, that it was an adaptation of a film that was very successful in the 1970s, and left a lasting impression on the film industry, and because Justin’s script was fantastic. It was still very much in the style of the first film, but it took the story forward and up another level, you might say. It’s got the makings of being memorable and a very good Australian film, which our industry needs desperately. We’re looking for films that are going to make an impression, not just in the local market but internationally as well. This film has great worldwide appeal, which was one of the reasons we were happy to put money into it.

“The visual effects themselves have been challenging. By their very nature, they’re a modern filmmaking technique, but what we’re doing is applying them to scenes that are still being designed to look very much in the Hitchcock style. So that’s a difficulty in itself: getting the combination right between the old and the new.”

When it comes to delivering for genre enthusiasts of both varieties, Cooper is emphatic that “horror fans are going to love this. There’s one series of scenes in particular, a flashback that appears progressively throughout the film. It relates to Patrick’s past and some of the things he has undertaken. I won’t give away what happens, but there are injuries that occur in the process that are quite horrific, and I believe they’ll make you cringe when you see them. I’ve got photographs of them on my camera, which I took as reference plates, and when people look at them, they’re horrified, because it’s pretty gory stuff.”

TO BE CONTINUED

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