Old cult classic rises from the dead

Producer Antony I. Ginnane (left) and director Mark Hartley on the Docklands set of Patrick, a remake of Ginnane?s 1978 cult horror film.
Producer Antony I. Ginnane (left) and director Mark Hartley on the Docklands set of Patrick, a remake of Ginnane?s 1978 cult horror film.

IT MAY be a modern reimagining of the 1978 cult horror film Patrick, but everything about the movie being shot at Docklands is delightfully old school - right down to the grand guignol finale being shot the day The Saturday Age visits.

Having spent the entire film comatose on a bed, the title character suddenly sits up and propels himself through a stained-glass window. It's the iconic moment from the original, a moment that has drawn rapturous praise from Quentin Tarantino, and a moment that director Mark Hartley has just two chances to capture, because that's as many sugar-water, stained-glass windows as the production can afford.

Amazingly, they get it in one. The stuntman sails through the air, hits the window head first, lands in a pile of sugary shards on a mattress, and gives the thumbs up to indicate he's alive. Hartley decrees it perfect. The second pane won't be needed.

If it were a Hollywood movie, the scene might have been created using digital effects, but Hartley is a fan of tradition. ''Old school is good school,'' he says.

His 2008 documentary Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! lovingly detailed a strand of Australian cinema that had largely been ignored - genre filmmaking. The original Patrick was one of the films he featured, and its producer Antony I. Ginnane one of his interview subjects.

Does that make him the perfect director to breathe new life into this old dog, a creepy tale about telekinesis, mad doctors and a spooky former convent by the sea? ''I'm not sure I'm the perfect guy, but I was certainly very dedicated to making it as good as I could,'' Hartley says. ''There's enough nods and touches in there for people who love the original, and we're reverent to it, but we're certainly not making the same film. It's very much our own.''

Technically, it is very much Ginnane's. Long before the concept of the ''long tail'' had been formulated, he was working it furiously, selling and reselling the distribution rights to the 64 films he has made. (He says he's sold the rights to Patrick about a dozen times in all, including TV, video and DVD releases.)

He has big plans for the rest of the back catalogue. ''For every new title we do we're going to do one remake until we've remade them all,'' he says.

Ginnane has always been ahead of the game (or at least to its side). At a time when the rest of the Australian industry was working in what he likes to call ''that BBC/Merchant Ivory mode'' - code for costume dramas - he was making populist genre fare like HarlequinDead Kids and Turkey Shoot, largely for the overseas market (rumour has it that the I. in his name stands for ''international''). Now, Australian cinema has embraced genre like never before.

So, do you feel like you've won the argument? ''If the argument back then was that the film industry wasn't catholic enough in its taste, then yes,'' he says. ''I think I provoked the argument … I wasn't the only one doing it, but I guess I was the noisiest.''

Patrick will be released mid-2013.

This story Old cult classic rises from the dead first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.