We can learn a great deal about the 2013 remake of the 1978 horror film Patrick simply by looking at where it came from. Director Mark Hartley was, by training, a documentary filmmaker, and the '13 Patrick was his first narrative feature. That doesn't tell us much by itself - lots of documentarians make the jump to features, and at least some of them have been good at it - but just look at the documentaries that Hartley made. He focused mostly on video shorts about the making-of various other media projects, and he turned this into a few longform studies: the 2010 Machete Maidens Unleashed!, about the Filipino exploitation film industry, and the 2014 Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, about the most notorious and celebrated American B-movie factory of the 1980s. And the one we care about most, for our present purposes, was his first feature-length film, 2008's Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!,* a film with a tiny, self-selecting audience, but a massive impact on that audience. More than a few films that had been forgotten entirely outside of Australia (and, as far as I know, within it) have been given fresh life as genre classics and cult favorites thanks to this film, and films languishing on mouldering VHS tapes got bright shiny digital releases entirely because of the attention Not Quite Hollywood brought them.

That's all well and good, but the point is: Hartley is not so much a horror film director by avocation as a horror film enthusiast. It makes perfect sense to me that he'd want to remake Patrick, one of the major works of late-'70s Australian horror. It also makes sense to me that Hartley's Patrick, whether considered next to the original or entirely on its own merits, would end up feeling so claustrophobically overworked. Enthusiasts are good for many things, such as making the rest of us aware of all the wonderful hidden gems we have been passing by. But part and parcel of being an enthusiast is lacking a certain degree of detachment and restraint. Even a lack of good judgment, we might say, if we are being especially cynical. The 2013 Patrick is undoubtedly enthusiastic; it feels like it was made by a true believer in the power of horror cinema. This is exactly the problem. Patrick goes all-in on being just the most horror film it can be, lustily diving into moody Gothic excess from the instant it begins, and giving itself no room to escalate or modulate thereafter. It's loud and aggressive and obvious, grating on its terms and revolting as a remake of a reasonably smart, character-oriented horror film.

For the most part, the new screenplay, written by Justin King, is pretty much the same as the old screenplay, with less stuff in it. Kathy Jacquard (Sharni Vinson) is in need of a job in a hurry, which means she's willing to accept the unfavorable terms given by the hostile Dr. Roget (Charles Dance) and Matron Cassidy (Rachel Griffiths), who run a remote clinic. The star patient is Patrick ( Jackson Gallagher), a young man in a persistent coma whose vacant, staring eyes have managed to thoroughly creep out the entire staff, but Kathy treats him with care and attention, and this creates a problem. See, Patrick is, despite all available evidence, entirely cognizant of what's going on around him, and his current condition has had the unexpected side-effect of triggering his psychokinetic powers. And he has now decided that Kathy is his one true love, and he'll use those powers to wreak hell on anyone who tries to take her attention away from him, which is bad news for her pushy ex, Ed (Damon Gameau) and Brian (Martin Crewes), the guy she's just started seeing.

The biggest shortcoming with the 2013 Patrick, especially in comparison to the original, is that this film's version of Kathy is almost entirely without definition as a character. Vinson has chops as a horror lead, something she proved two years before this in You're Next, but she's utterly lost in this part, which mostly asks her to knit her brow and look agog. This is by no means an insurmountable task for the actor, but she's not doing anything to resist as the film nudges her towards a kind of shallow meekness that makes Kathy tremendously boring to watch. Vinson's not the only cast member that Patrick betrays, either. Dance and Griffiths are both solid, reliable performers, workhorses of the sort that makes the movie industry go 'round, and I suppose that they're both giving the movie exactly what it asks for: they fit in with the overall tone and aesthetic priorities, at least. Given that the film has decided from our first vision of the Bates Motel-like hospital that we're going to get slammed in the head over and over again by heavy atmosphere, it's probably unsurprising and maybe even correct that Roget and Cassidy are such undiluted, glowering menaces, one-note baddies from the moment we first meet them. The result is two hammy, unmodulated performances that I imagine must have been a lot of fun to play, but just seems kitschy and overwrought, even in the context of a kitschy and overwrought film.

That's exactly the word to use, I think: overwrought. Hartley and King play no moment quietly when it can be put over by a full marching band, and the blaring noise starts right with the first scene, a random death of an unidentified nurse (this is, I believe, what creates the vacancy that allows Kathy to start working there, but I'm assuming more than the film ought to make me assume). It continues on through the myopically dark lighting, which renders the clinic as an endless array of thick shadows and the meagerest slivers of light; it intensifies during the complete bullshit of the film's last 20 minutes or so, the point where it finally lost me as a film in its own right (it lost me as a remake of the '78 Patrick by the 90-second mark). We get some arbitrarily extreme gore; we get a scene that I pray was meant to be comic, though nothing about it really plays that way, when Patrick uses his powers to reanimate all the other coma patients and have them gravely chant "Patrick wants his handjob".

It's a big, dumb horror movie, basically, so eager to sock it to us that it forgets that atmosphere is more something we sink into than something we drown in, and that horror has to build, you can't just start at full blast and expect it to have anything but a numbing effect on the viewer. I will at least allow that it looks like a million bucks: all those heavy blacks are suffocating, but cinematographer Garry Richards at least does a good job of rendering them. And for all that Dance and especially Griffiths are hardly giving good performances, or even palpably threatening performances, seeing them go for over-the-top mad science theatrics is at least plausibly fun, if you're less tetchy and annoyed by the whole thing than I was. This is a 2010s horror remake through and through: way too big and splashy, shorn of any real nuance or thematic overtones, monotonous. There's something in here, a richness of atmosphere and the hard core of the scenario, that seem like they might be able to give us something salvage; but at that point, the 1978 is right there, and it's less work to watch.

Body Count: 8, compared to the original's 3 (though it matches it at two frogs). Make of this whatever you like - I sure did.

*Plainly, the man liked wild, untold stories. And exclamation points.