I was scared that we were going to miss the opportunity to cover Stitches. It was one of those situations when it felt like everything was stacked against us ever reviewing it.
The film was first screened last year at Frightfest and due an unfortunate chain of events, Zombie2 missed it. From then on, press screenings and review DVD’s seemed to slip between our fingers.
It was only at the very last that we managed to secure a copy and finally view the film that has already attracted heaps of praise.
Stitches is a British film, and a horror comedy, which is a tough place to reside. Mainly because it immediately has the Shaun of the Dead benchmark to be measured against.
‘Stitches’ (played by comedian, Ross Noble) is a clown. A gruff, northern clown to be precise. Entertaining children is a chore for him, but is something that he is duty bound to do, being a fully fledged member of the clown community.
But during the birthday party of 10-year-old Tommy, Stitches is heckled and pestered by the children and in a freak accident, is killed.
Six years laters, Tommy is a troubled teenager who is still haunted by past events. He’s an anxious lad and is particularly scared of clowns. He constantly feels as though Stitches might one day return for bloody revenge. And you know what? He’s right.
Stitches starts off as a gory dark comedy and soon evolves into a pretty conventional teen slasher movie. And it’s the second part of that statement that detracts from the concept somewhat. You see, some elements of Stitches really work, whilst some don’t so much.
The film seems to have taken influence from The League of Gentlemen, IT, Scream and Peter Jackson’s early gory works, which is no bad thing.
Noble manifests a creepy yet comedic character in Stitches the clown, who would be right at home in Royston Vasey or a similar surreal and nightmarish place. Stitches as a kid culling, killer character definitely works.
And let’s face it, clowns are a sure thing when it comes to creating scary characters. From IT to Killer Clowns from Outer Space, their happy distorted faces are just so nightmare inducing.
The film initially moves fast, which is also a good thing. But as time passes and the switch to a teen focus takes place, things slow, characters are developed and some of the momentum is lost.
This stop start ride takes off again when Stitches finally returns for vengeance. At that point the audience is treated to a number of creative and particularly gory deaths, along with some other interesting elements – like Stitches’ removable nose which hunts down the group of unfortunate teenagers.
The gore is very well done, and there’s no doubt that Stitches is a fun, engaging film that is perfect for larger audiences (no surprises that it was well received at Frightfest).
But when watched more intimately and with perhaps a bit more of a critical eye, the slight weaknesses in script, cinematography and substance are more apparent.
Stitches is enjoyable. And considering the modest budget, the cast, effects and general package are all very good.
Although it falls short of ‘amazing’, the signs are good for writer-director Conor McMahon’s future projects.
Killer Clowns are still definitely terrifying.