Sydney Film Festival Review: Patchwork (Canada/USA, 2015)

Kicking off this year’s “Freak Me Out” program as part of the Sydney Film Festival was Tyler MacIntyre’s Patchwork, a horror-comedy gem that managed to fly under the radar when it was released last year. The charming indie is a literal blend of character, inventive in the way it draws from the influential idea behind Frankenstein and builds its own distinctive monster flick with a fair amount of genuinely hilarious comedy threaded in, just to make sure no one mistakes this for a film that takes itself too seriously.

Patchwork follows the converging lives of Jennifer, Ellie, and Madeline, three young women stuffed into three different, weakly drawn stereotypes. Jennifer (Tory Stopler) is the short-haired brunette, professional business-type who is looking to celebrate her birthday at a nightclub where the only non-evasive guest is a lovelorn old school friend – a result of her perceived coldness towards others. Ellie (Tracey Fairaway) is a ditzy blonde-haired party girl inexplicably at the same nightclub to attach herself to random groups of “bro” type college guys. And Madeline (Maria Blasucci) is a relatively shy, terribly insecure red head who has a desperate desire to be “perfect”. Compared to many others horror films the female characters are strongly developed here, though the use of cliches to distinguish the three hyperbolic personalities is disappointing.

Nevertheless, the high degree of separation between these characters proves effective when all three are literally mashed together in some sort of strange experiment – killed, chopped up, and then stitched into one. It’s grotesque and absurd, but treated with a kind of playful cartoonish horror.

With different body parts merged into the one body, the three women end up sharing the same consciousness – of course, the science of that isn’t address because this isn’t that type of film – providing a platform for MacIntyre’s strongest idea: having all three women “behind the scenes” if you will, stuck in an empty room (presumably to represent “the mind”) debating about how to control their one body.

As the most dominant of the three, Stopler’s Jennifer does most of the leg work here as the stitch-worked “monster”, and it’s her life which is mostly entwined in the narrative of all three working together to find out the what, where, why, how, and who of their new situation on the quest for revenge. The young actress’ physical performance as the 3-in-1 being is superb and accentuated just enough to balance slapstick comedy with something a bit more dramatic, bringing sympathy to the “monster” while it dishes out violent revenge to the many pick-up artists and nice guys that lay in the path on the way to the man responsible for all of this.

The film is segmented into eight chapters designed to both show the ensuing chaos and the separate situations that led to it, jumping across the timeline to build up to a clever twist that thankfully isn’t saved until the conclusion of the film and feels like a natural – albeit slightly predictable – development.

MacIntyre maintains a wacky tone throughout the film, and even though he isn’t willing to go too far with the gore or horror aspect, he leans against the comedic hits heavily and is so dedicated to making the audience squirm in laughter that he even throws in an unexpected, extended sex scene, and sticks with it.

While obvious parallels will be drawn to Re-Animator (pets included) and Frankenhooker, Patchwork is a distinctive and original indie horror-comedy that is both highly entertaining and a worthy homage to Mary Shelley. Though it plays with worn archetypes a bit too much, and relies on laughs more than horror, Patchwork succeeds off the back of creativity, excellent direction, and a relatively unknown cast in very fine form.

Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Run Time: 87 Minutes

Patchwork screened as part of Sydney Film Festival 2016. There will be one more session on Tuesday 14th June at 6:45pm at Dendy Newtown. Click HERE for more information and tickets.

NOTE: Patchwork screens with Simon Cartwright’s Manoman, an 11 minute short film that features a bizarre story about rod puppets attending a primal scream class, where one man unwittingly creates a chaotic miniature version of himself.