Oh, here’s another reason to love Italian cinema: they will jump on a known property faster than you can say The Asylum. But I’m talking less about the new, self-conscious models of mockery and more of the Use the Name, a Setting, and a Character school of “flattery”. For instance Patrick Still Lives (1980), the unofficial sequel to Patrick (1978), the surprise Australian hit, isn’t even a sequel but rather a reboot: same premise, similar setting, same name. All the boxes are checked for my kind of flick, and it has the added bonus of being rung through the Italian filter to end up in a place far removed (yet equally as entertaining) from the original. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Patrick Still Lives (AKA Patrick vive ancora) opened in Italy in May; Wikipedia (that beacon of true report) notes that “It is known primarily for its graphic scenes of sex and gore”, and Holy Dinah, they are not joking, people. It’s mostly standard fare - your usual decapitations on electric car windows, boiled alive in a swimming pool - but features a scene with a poker that makes Regan’s crucifixion antics look like Veggie Tales. Well then. Some story?
Patrick (Gianni Dei - Sex of the Witch) is standing along the side of the road with his father Dr. Herschel (Sacha Pitoeff - Inferno) and their broken down car; suddenly out of nowhere a car races by and Patrick receives a bottle upside the head. Not dead, Patrick is taken to his dad’s clinic where he’s fixed up but catches a bad case of the comas.
Flash forward several years; while Patrick still lays in wide-eyed slumber, the good doctor has invited five people to his “spa” for a week of paid pampering: two couples and one single, all with a connection to Patrick, and all with a certain death wish…
Ooh, a mystery on top of everything else? Bring it on! Sorry, what’s that? The reason is nonsensical because only one person threw the bottle and the five didn’t know each other? Begone with your talk of logic and reasoning; director Mario Landi (Supersexymarket) and writer Piero Regnoli (Nightmare City) have no need for it, and neither should you. Welcome to the world of Patrick Still Lives, where you can bask in the multihued magic from your own bed, just like Patrick!
Comparisons between the original Richard Franklin film are obvious, and plentiful: Patrick kills people from a vegetative state. Okay, perhaps not plentiful, but definitely obvious, and surprisingly enough to remind one of the original. (I mean, it’s not exactly a bursting sub-genre.) But that’s it folks; the rest is SOP, which means saying goodbye to childhood trauma igniting a sick mind, and saying hello to straight up revenge. It also must be scorching hot in Italy, as all of the women have trouble retaining their attire. Such as it goes with this type of interpretation (fancy word for IP theft, really); once you identify the property, they’re free to mold it in any way they see fit.
Patrick is given no personality before his bottle bash, so put any notion of probing psychology out of your head; he’s more concerned with molesting and manipulating the women, through objects and self-gratification to give us a glimpse inside a tortured soul. (He’s just horny is all, I guess?) But Italian horror is known more for the visceral and the visual over mental stimulus, which can lead to severe dehydration for those accustomed to dialogue fitting the action, and/or contributing to the plot whatsoever. Motives are moot around these parts, especially when Landi reaches for his inner Bava and pulls out bizarre, out of place lighting, and from Argento when he turns them to motion. No one will ever believe that a woman’s throat would be sliced by an electric window, yet this is part of what makes Italian horror like Patrick Still Lives sing: The artifice is real. It’s real for the filmmakers, and all they ask is you accept their reality, no matter how absurd it may seem.
I’m slowly walking on rat traps to discuss that scene; but really it is hardcore exploitation - poker and privates say hello - and completely unnecessary. As is most exploitation, which is kind of the point; shocking people is just one checkmark on a successful schlock tour, and congrats to Landi for pulling off an all-timer. And I never want to know what he was thinking!
When you sign up for a Patrick Still Lives, you are getting a commitment from the filmmakers to give you the weirdest and wildest time, regardless of ties to reality or not (even its own). This film would have you believe that a coma patient could kill people in outlandish ways with his mind. That’s not going to happen. It does however, reaffirm one’s belief in the power of the medium to amuse in unexpected and delightful ways. A good enough to keep coming back as any.
Patrick Still Lives is available on Blu-ray from Severin Films.Next: [Indie Horror Month 2021] Drive-In Dust Offs: THE LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET (1977)