If you’re like me, when you were a kid, there was a old lady in church who just creeped you the hell out. She’d pinch your cheeks with her veiny hands and give you a nickel or an off-brand piece of hard candy from her purse (if you were lucky, still wrapped), and you’d reluctantly put it in your mouth to be polite, all the while wondering what old-lady disease you’d just contracted. They say that everyone is afraid of growing old, but I fear OTHER PEOPLE growing old, and judging rom The Final Patient, I’m not alone.
Lizan Mitchell plays Elizabeth Green, the crazy old church lady from my nightmares and the titular “final patient.” She’s married to Daniel Green (great character actor Bill Cobbs), a kindly rural doctor who’s secretly been experimenting with an ancient Chinese elixir that’s given him super-human strength and a clean bill of health for the past two decades. The effects on his sick wife, however, have been volatile; basically, she’s gone bat shit insane.
Director Jerry Mainardi chooses to go the Psycho route in portraying her nutty behavior, showing only glimpses of her splotchy arms and moist upper lip until the big reveal near the end of the movie. Like Norman’s mother, she’s just a disembodied voice for most of the film, constantly on Doc Green’s case about strangers dropping by for fear that they’ll discover the secret formula. It’s all quite grating; I think all her lines must’ve been written IN CAPITALS. You wonder why Doc hasn’t smothered her by now, but all the histrionics do keep us tuned in to see what the batty lady is gonna do. And you KNOW she’s gonna do something…
Enter victims Cameron (Alex “No Relation to Corey” Feldman) and Willy (Jason Scott “No Relation to Soup” Campbell), a pair of recent med school grads passing through town. Willy grew up in these parts, so he knows Doc Green well and decides to drop in for a visit. Stupid, stupid kids. Inexplicably, Doc invites them to stay for dinner, as it becomes clear that he’s tired of all the cloak-and-dagger stuff and is ready to reveal his secrets to these young med students who could presumably do some good with the formula. Elizabeth, though, has other ideas — AAAAAAIIIIIIIEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!! NO MORE HARD CANDY!!!!!!!! If the idea of a sickly old lady coming after you doesn’t sound frightening, consider that A) she’s more juiced than Barry Bonds, B) she’s wacked out on meds and C) she has a head the size of Pluto (granted, that’s small for a planet, but it’s large for a head).
When we finally get a good look at Elizabeth 90 minutes in, we find that she resembles the demon from Abby crossed with those hydrocephalic “Dragon Ball Z” guys. It’s a bit campy, but in the context of the film — in a darkened house lit by only a flashlight from a first-person point of view — it works. The whole film is basically a build-up for the last 10 minutes, and it’s worth the wait, although the talky, drawn-out plot is more suited to a 30-minute segment in an anthology. Snoop Dogg’s Farm of Horror perhaps?