The campest feature at Frightfest 2016, and the only horror comedy on a bill, was Tyler MacIntyre’s Frankenstein update, Patchwork. The film follows three women (Tory Stolper, Maria Blasucci, and Tracey Fairaway) who, after being butchered and sewn into one body, work “together” to take revenge on the mad scientist (Corey Sorensen) responsible for their horrific predicament.
Patchwork reeks of its influences, from the retro poster to the bombastic plot, it feels like a late 80’s flick with a huge debt to Frank Henenlotter (Basket Case) and Stuart Gordon (Re Animator, From Beyond). Surprisingly, MacIntyre professed to never having seen 1990’s Frankenhooker, a body horror comedy with such potent trash ideals it just wouldn’t feel right nowadays. Perhaps that’s Patchwork’s smoking gun: that it successfully translates a vibe from that late 80’s/early 90’s period, to the modern era, just as well as it boldly updates Mary Shelley’s seminal Frankenstein.
The part of Patchwork audiences seemed most intrigued by, was how MacIntyre would pull off the whole ‘Three Girls One Body’ thing, and it doesn’t disappoint. Tory Stolper is the face of the monster, carrying the legacy of the patchwork undead in her jittering movements, whilst also nailing the fact that she is supposed to be comprised of an additional two minds. The camera seamlessly works its way around Stolper, one second showing her gored body, the next: presenting the three girls clean and unharmed, chatting about what they want to do and how they want to it. It’s a great idea, slipping in and out of the creature’s mindscape, because it does what Frankenhooker didn’t: reminds us that there is a human under the cartoon. Naturally then, Patchwork has the ability to be really touching. The morning-after plays out more like a rape realisation than anything else, the latent body horror never exploited, more or less used to discuss how women are treated in contemporary culture.
Patchwork is a really funny film too, though. Whether it be the fantastic chemistry between Fairaway, Blasucci, and Stolper, or James Phelps’ (Fred Weasley from the Harry Potter films) comic timing, or the cute little gore touches, MacIntyre and co-writer Chris Lee Hill know what vibe they’re going for. Stolper is honestly superb, but perhaps never more enjoyable than when she’s revved up, earphones in, bat-in-hand, dolling out some ultra-violence to a bunch of hilariously detestable jocks at a frat house. She’s a tough cookie and a horror heroine in-the-making, the perfect vehicle for Patchwork’s discourse.
The film never really gathers that kind of momentum again, though. In the end MacIntyre takes the plunge and really embraces Re-Animator, with varying degrees of success. The scale of the finale is charming and the near-slapstick tom foolery is appreciable, but there’s a lame side perhaps best encapsulated by Soren’s turn as the mad scientist. The performance is as grating as it is hilariously OTT but lines like ‘Release the Owl Cat’ are essentially T-Shirt-bait, sticking out like a severed thumb amidst a relatively well-tuned horror comedy.
Stolper makes an iconic heroine, whilst MacIntyre proves he’s perfectly capable of creating a fun venture in and out of the retro aesthetic. Overall, Patchwork manages to hit the beats, but never quite lives up to its bravado.
Dir: Tyler MacIntyre
Stars: Tory Stolper, Maria Blasucci, and Tracey Fairaway, James Phelps, Corey Sorensen