Fantastic Fest 2013: Mark Hartley on Patrick & Electric Boogaloo
When Mark Hartley introduced his latest film, a remake of Patrick, at Fantastic Fest, he advised the audience to welcome jump scares, because that’s what he was going for. The documentary filmmaker behind Not Quite Hollywood and Machete Maidens Unleashed also said he was always a narrative filmmaker who got caught up making documentaries. I’m still waiting for his Cannon Films documentary Electric Boogaloo.
Patrick stars Sharni Vinson as nurse Kathy Jacquard, who goes to work in a coma ward presided over by Doctor Roget (Charles Dance) and Matron Cassidy (Rachel Griffeths). One patient, Patrick (Jackson Gallgher) seems to communicate with Kathy, and eventually develops telekinetic powers that he uses to type on computers and terrorize the hospital. We sat down with Hartley one morning before Fantastic Fest programming began. Some Patrick spoilers are alluded to, though if you’ve seen the original you’re probably safe.
CraveOnline: You cast Jackson Gallagher as Patrick. Did you have to cast the other coma patients too?
Mark Hartley: I think there’s only six other patients in the ward. The problem with that, they had to be nude as well. They had to be topless, so that sort of posed a few problems when the agents found that out. A, they were extras, they weren’t getting paid a lot and they had to be topless.
That was another question. The hospital doesn’t cover up women’s breasts?
I think because we didn’t want people to even think they were being treated as humanely or as humans. They’re being treated as pieces of meat. And I guess if we were going to have Patrick uncovered we certainly want to have all the rest of the patients uncovered as well. I think it just made it all a little bit more squeamish about the whole place, a bit more creepy about the whole place. When Williams (Peta Sergeant) comes through and gives that first tour to Kathy, she doesn’t refer to any of the patients as their names. She just refers to them as how they got into their comas. So we wanted Kathy to be the first person who showed any of these people any humanity in the place, so that was part of the reason for having them topless.
As you said in the introduction, you really embraced the jump scares in Patrick. Have jump scares become a bad word?
Yeah, of course they have. It’s really interesting, this film has really divided people. I think it’s because people just aren’t used to seeing old fashioned horror movies anymore. I love horror films and the horror films I really loved growing up were films that were like roller coaster rides. That kind of stopped and it just became people being nasty to each other. I didn’t want to make a film like that at all.
I wanted to make very much a throwback and to me jump scares were a large part of that. We wrote the first half of the script, we always knew that people would get to know who Patrick was and what he did because the film’s called Patrick and people like to have some sense of what they’re going to see. But we thought let’s imagine they don’t and let’s make the first half of this film appear like a ghost story. To me, ghost stories do involve jumps, cheap jump scares.
There’s an art to doing it right though, isn’t there?
I guess so. The cinematographer and I watched a lot of films. I think the only cliché we didn’t use is a cat jumping out from nowhere, but we did toil about having Kathy have a cat for quite a while. But yeah, look, I’ve got no problem with that stuff and as I said during the introduction, I’m very unapologetic about that. People either like that or they don’t. They’re going to like the film or they won’t, but it’s certainly the film that we set out to make.
What were the movies you and your DP watched?
I showed Garry [Richards] The Legend of Hell House, the John Hough movie. We watched all of De Palma’s films, we watched a lot of Argento films. We’re big fans of The Orphanage and Julia’s Eyes, the two Spanish films. I think the film does owe a lot to The Orphanage in terms of trying to create the atmosphere of the movie. There were lots and lots of films we watched. The Changeling, films like that.
I have not seen the original Patrick. Was there a hand job in that?
There is, yeah. But it only appears as a typed message on a typewriter. It’s interesting, with that line, we had it very subtly in the first draft. Screen Australia who were the main financier of this film, the script people didn’t like it. They said it was too camp. We said, “But it’s from the original film.” So we took it out of the next draft, got funding, put it back in and went, “Well, fuck it. Let’s have the whole of the room chant it in unison.” For some people that’s the highlight of the movie.
So in the original he uses typewriters instead of computers?
Yeah, in the original there’s a typewriter in the room that he talks on.
Did you slam Charles Dance around for real?
Him slamming into the wall is not Charles but certainly Charles did go through a lot on this film. He did the fall back into the chair and all the shock therapy stuff. I know the shock therapy scenes, they took a bit out of Charles doing that. He was really giving it his all at that point. I think that was one of the last things we shot with Charles on the shoot. He certainly gave it some gravitas. He was very much invested in the film which was really great.
How did you land Pino Donaggio for the score?
One of the highlights for me, in my life basically, was all the way through the writing of Patrick and all through the shot listing and all through preproduction in general, I was just constantly listening to Pino Donaggio’s music to get me in the mood. We wanted it to be a throwback to the films that I loved when I was growing up, but they’re all the films that were made by proteges of Hitchcock. They’re all made by Richard Franklin who made the original Patrick, by Argento and by Brian De Palma.
So all the way through the production of the film, the producer Tony Ginnane was saying, “We need to get a composer on board.” I was saying, “I’m holding out. We’ll finish the film, we’re going to do a cut, we’re going to send it to Donaggio and see if we can get him. Everyone thought it was just a ludicrous idea and that’s what we ended up doing. As I said, one of the great moment of my life is when I got an e-mail back from Pino saying that he loved the film. He actually said that it reminded him of watching a rough cut of Carrie which was praise beyond belief, and was happy to do it.
The score does divide people too because if you’ve got a Pino Donaggio score, why bury it in the mix? I feel you need to have it basically lead the film. I really love it. Scores now are just incessant percussion turned up to 11 and that’s the last thing I wanted for this film. It really is a throwback to Bernard Hermann’s scores.
And that’s part of what makes the jump scares work, isn’t it?
I think it certainly dictates the sensibility of the film from frame one and people know what we’re trying to do hopefully. They either go with it or they don’t.
Some of the jumps are his score.
Yeah, of course. You just have to watch films like Drag Me To Hell. Most of the scares in that film are due to the sound design. The sound design in that film is doing an awful lot. We thought, “Well, if we can add an extra element of fright and unease to Patrick through the sound design, why not?” It was interesting, we had a very full on sound design done and then we had Pino’s score, and we found that they were both doing the same job in the sound mix. Every scene we had to decide what do we use to get our suspense and thrills across? It was either Pino’s score, getting rid of all the sound design or bringing Pino’s score down and bumping up the sound design. Nine times out of 10 we went with Pino’s score doing that work for us.
Where is the franchise in this? Will there be Patrick 2: Patrick Harder? [I should have also suggested Patricks, a sequel with multiple Patricks.]
The franchise is all up to the audience. It’s all out of my hands. It’s up to people wanting to see the film. Rachel really embraced, this was Rachel’s first genre film and she really did embrace it. One day I jokingly said, “I guess if we’re going to do a sequel, we could do a prequel and have your backstory, your involvement with Patrick and why you’re so damaged when we first see you in this film.” So who knows? I like to think that we’ll end up with Patrick 3000: Armageddon where he’s controlling supercomputers.