Movie Review: Patient Seven (2016)
“Try to remain calm.”
Patient Seven (2016)
Director: Danny Draven
Cast: Michael Ironside, Jack Plotnick, Drew Fonteiro
Synopsis: A psychiatrist interviews six patients at a mental institution, each of whom has a bizarre or macabre story to tell.
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Danny Draven’s Patient Seven is one of the latest breed of anthology movies in which the short stories contained within the wraparound story are actually a compilation of stand-alone short movies that share some – usually vague – theme. Draven appears to have taken some care when selecting the seven shorts for his movie although, given that at least one of them dates back to 2011, he has clearly cast his net wide. Ironically, although none of the stories in Patient Seven feel like they don’t belong, writer Barry Jay often strains to establish a convincing link between the characters in the framing device and the stories, in which they usually play only a peripheral part.
The film takes place in the depressing blue-grey, windowless confines of the Spring Valley mental institution to which Dr Daniel Marcus (Michael Ironside – Visiting Hours, Total Recall) travels in order to interview six inmates as research for his latest academic book. His confrontational interview technique is unconventional to say the least, but succeeds in coaxing a story from each of the reluctant inmates.
As with all anthology movies, the quality of the stories in Patient Seven varies considerably. The stronger segments include The Banishing, an effectively creepy horror story of possession in which the attempt of a teenage girl to protect her younger sister from an old woman who appears to be haunting her ends badly. The brisk seven-minute running time of Death Scenes illustrates how less can be more with its punchy account of an apparently deluded serial killer facing interrogation by the police, while the twist in the Icelandic zombie short Undying Love demonstrates how a twist in the tale can be effective even when telegraphed from the opening scene.
Although it features an eye-catching performance from Alfie Allen (John Wick, Pandemic), the treatment of The Body is just a little too jaunty for its dark tale of a serial killer whose attempt to dispose of his latest victim one Halloween is frustrated by an old schoolmate and his friends, and also suffers from the weakest of the Patient Seven’s attempts to link its’ stories to one of Spring Valley’s inmates.
Of the other entries, The Sleeping Plot, in which a resourceful little girl ingeniously raises the funds she requires to arrange the funeral of her friend, shares The Body’s quirky tone but leaves too many questions unanswered. The Visitant, which is probably the shortest of the movies, is guilty of the same, and lacks any kind of plot or back-story – although it does boast some impressive effects as a single mother seeks to defend her daughters from a demon. Finally, Evaded, another zombie tale which provides the back-story for the mysterious title character, is efficiently made but essentially pointless, feeling more like an excerpt from a longer movie than its own self-contained story.
Unusually for an anthology movie, Patient Seven devotes as much time to its wraparound story as it does to the characters’ individual tales. While it benefits from the presence of B-movie horror stalwart Michael Ironside, it’s an ordinary tale that never convincingly meshes together the film’s various components.
Films like Patient Seven provide a valuable platform for unknown directors seeking a foothold in the industry, but they invariably make for an uneven, and ultimately unsatisfying, viewing experience.
(Reviewed 23rd December 2016)