Director Tyler MacIntyre’s film, Patchwork, is horror/comedy that puts a modern spin on the mythology established in Mary Shelley’s classic story, Frankenstein. At its core, Patchwork is an examination of life death in the modern age, mixed with violence, gore, and a cheeky tone sure to delight fans of classic 80’s scream-fests.
In Patchwork, Jennifer (Tory Stolper) is a young professional woman living in Los Angeles, and the embodiment of the fast-paced L.A. lifestyle: she hangs out in bottle service booths inside trendy nightspots, wears pantsuits, and dates a douchey guy that wears a Bluetooth headset while at a club (and he also cheats on his wife). When Jennifer’s frenemies don’t show up to join her birthday jam, she goes home alone, hoping to “Netflix and chill” with her philandering hook up buddy until she’s cracked in the back of the skull by a bat. Upon waking, Jennifer believes herself to be recovering from the previous night’s bender. She shuffles off to the bathroom, looks into a mirror and is shocked to see that her body is no longer her own – its been stitched together from portions of two other women (Tracey Fairaway as Ellie and Maria Blasucci as Madeleine). Making matters more complicated, the women are still alive in a sense: the trio share a collective consciousness as well as control of their body (think of it as a demented version of the emotions occupying Riley’s head in Inside Out). Barely able to keep it together, the women cooperate long enough to make an escape. Still unable to come to terms with their afterlife, the women shift their focus towards tracking down the person responsible for their mutilation. If playing detective wasn’t hard enough, the women must learn to get along with each other while also making peace with the hang-ups they’re carrying over from their former lives.
Patchwork features great performance by all three of its leads. Working with MacIntyre and Chris Lee Hill’s kooky script, Stolper, Fairaway, and Blasucci each provide a level of depth to their roles that runs deeper than their initially broad characterizations (the bitch, the pretty one, and the strange one). MacIntyre and Lee Hill’s script takes the ladies on an an insane emotional journey (that’s a good thing). Early on in the film, the ladies momentarily hold onto the hope they can go back to their former lives, but they quickly receive a harsh reality check from the straight-shooting Garrett (the film’s love interest played by James Phelps) that helps them embrace their new lot in (after)life. Ultimately, Patchwork’s story comes from a dark place: it’s about three murder victims who can never go back to their former lives. It’s a dour premise so the film flips the concept on its head, committing to the absurdity and never looking back.
Patchwork lives up to its label as a horror comedy. Patches (the amalgamation of the three women) comes across as terrifying and silly at the same time. When the women speak to each other inside their head, the film depicts them as all being face to face in the same room. The movie often cuts away from the inner dialogue, giving the viewer the perspective of people in the Patches’ world that only see a woman talking to herself. Watching Patches speaking to herself never gets old and the moments where she answers her own questions outloud or breaks into full on arguments inspire gut busting laughter. The terrifying aspect of the character is more subversive. Take away the comedy and you are left with three traumatized personalities dancing around in one beleaguered mind. The result is an unstable, bitter, and emotionally fractured being with a short temper that’s prone to outbursts (she straight up “mercs” people that cross her). Patches is an actual monster, possessing all the qualities of a force of evil that a hero would hunt down and kill in most any other film.
The film has a certain charm that grabs the viewer from the opening frame, and even when the film gets a little disjointed, it never loses its appeal. Patchwork’s first two acts flow nicely, doing an excellent job of balancing its drama, horror, and sillier moments before things get bumpy in the final act. MacIntyre has a difficult time balancing the film’s comedic elements with its more serious undertones once it’s time to wrap up all the narrative threads in the film’s last 30-minutes. Despite the minor hitch, Patchwork still manages to arrive at a satisfying conclusion.
MacIntyre takes a 200-year old story and transforms it into something exciting and relevant. Patchwork offers an accessible take on the classic Frankenstein mythology that is bursting with untapped potential — the film could easily branch out into sequels, television, and graphic novels. The movie is a funny, self-aware, and well-acted piece of filmmaking that will leave audiences yearning to re-visit the movie’s macabre world. Patchwork is the embodiment of why genre fans make the pilgrimage to film festivals.