Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Final Patient

As BC over at Horror Movie a Day is always fond of saying, when you’re operating with a low budget, the only aspect of the film that doesn’t cost anything is the script. This is especially the case when you (you in this case being director Jerry Mainardi, naturally) are just writing the script with your brother. That’s why it’s always nice to see a film like The Final Patient, a low-budget effort (IMDB estimates it at $498,000) that actually took the time to come up with an interesting and original story and characters, at least before throwing in a weak, obligatory horror movie ending.

Bill Cobbs plays Dr. Daniel Green, an elderly country doctor who draws attention from his community when he rescues a boy pinned under a tractor by lifting the whole tractor up and pulling the child out. The townsfolk get to talking around the bar, and sharing stories of him displaying extraordinary strength, such as lifting up a twenty foot oak tree, or running one night faster than a dog despite his cane. Two young med students hear all this, and decide to check him out to see what his secret is, and after being invited to his house for supper, he begins to regale them with the story of his life and how he became so strong in the first place. Of course, some secrets are better left unknown…*

There’s quite a bit to like about this movie. As I noted in the tags, for most of the movie it functions more as a drama than a horror movie, filled with a great deal of people talking, slowly building up the mystery of the doctor. Some will undoubtedly find this slow and tedious, but I for one am happy to see a low-budget horror that’s not just yet another slasher movie. Further, and this is eve more unexpected for a low-budget horror, the central character is actually played by a really good actor. Cobbs is worn down with life, and yet still just seems more interested in goofing around and telling long-winded stories to his young companions -- you know, like how old men frequently are in real life and almost never are in the movies (when they appear in movies at all). The two med students aren’t as interesting, but at least they’re not visibly bad either.

Of course, all this goodwill is partially undone by the ending, where the movie devolves into more standard horror fare, in a similar (though briefer and less effects oriented) manner to Splice. I actually kind of wish that, while keeping the supernatural mystery about him, they actually had kept it at a drama instead of a horror movie at all. It would have had the potential to have a much better ending than it wound up with, at least.

If you don’t mind a movie with a nice slow build and casual pace, and don’t require scenes of violence throughout the film, The Final Patient has a lot to offer you. Of course, it’s remained pretty obscure since its release five years ago (to the point where the DVD is a bargain price now) while visibly worse-made but gorier indie horrors have thrived, so I may well be in the minority on this.

Rating: ***

* This is actually not true.

P.S. Since the ending is the only part of the movie that really has any violence, the trailer below naturally takes pretty heavily from there. Fair warning.

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