FrightFest 2012 Review: Stitches
Review by Ben Bussey
Send in the clowns. They’re a classic for creeping you out, aren’t they? Be they killers from outer space, phantoms that live in the drains or weird old guys carrying the dubious title of Captain, those red-nosed, white-faced bastards with painted-on smiles have been putting the shits up us all, young and old, for time immemorial. But while they’re good at being scary, one thing clowns hardly ever are is genuinely funny. Well, at long last here comes a contender who might prove the exception to the rule, managing to be as amusing as he is alarming: Stitches the clown, immortalised in the form of British comedian Ross Noble in this new film from director Conor McMahon. It’s one of those horror movies that doesn’t come within a thousand miles of rewriting the rule book, but you wind up having too much fun to care; a good old-fashioned splatstick slasher, with gore gags that Sam Raimi would surely approve of.
So just what kind of a sleazy clown is this Stitches, you ask? Well, we first meet him in full costume slamming his girlfriend from behind in his cliff-top caravan while she cries “fuck me clown.” Nuff said, I think. Moments later he’s on his way to provide the entertainment at the tenth birthday party of Tom. But everyone’s a critic, and kids these days just aren’t impressed with the classics, and soon enough they pull a little prank which – wouldn’t you know it – goes horribly wrong. In no short order Stitches is an ex-clown and Tom is one very messed-up little dude. Six years pass, and the now adolescent Tom (Tommy Knight) is no less messed up, and no less hung up on his neighbour Kate, who’s grown into an almost-Christina Ricci lookalike (Gemma-Leah Devereux). With his mum out of town over his sixteenth birthday, naturally the old gang talks him into throwing a party; and when would be a better time for Stitches to return from the grave to finish his party routine?
Yes, the plot is simple. Yes, the characters are the basic archetypes: nervous male lead, sensitive female lead, obnoxious mate, camp fat kid, mean bitch, bury-me-in-a-Y-shaped-coffin girl, and so on and so forth. But innovation is not the name of the game here. This is midnight movie fodder, hence FrightFest gave it the late slot which it fit like a glove (or oversized shoe). It’s a standard set-up you can more or less sing along to; the real trick is how the little flourishes they come up with work. And the real ace up the sleeve here is the lead actor. Ross Noble does sterling work as the sour-faced clown out for blood (as well as doing a bang-up job warming up the FrightFest audience prior to the screening), and the progressively ridiculous methods of dispatch that McMahon and co-writer David O’Brian cook up for him are delightfully daft, and always accompanied by a pithy pun, recalling Freddy Kruger at his hammiest (and I mean that in a good way). We’ve got guts, brains and other assorted organs spilling onto the screen in abundance, and one of the very best eyeball gags I’ve seen in a long time; think Fulci by way of Ren and Stimpy.
Honestly, there’s not a huge amount else to say. The teen cast (and from the look of them, this lot really are still in their teens, so for the older viewers amongst us there’s the potential to feel really old watching this) are well-served by the script, and handle themselves well; it’s very much to their credit that you don’t actually want to see them slaughtered in the first five minutes as can often be the case in slashers. I do have to cast doubts as to whether today’s sixteen year olds would sing along en masse to ‘I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight’ (even though it’s a funny moment) and I would also have to question the logistics of a single hash cookie containing the equivalent of 40 joints as is claimed, but I’m just nitpicking now. Stitches is 90 minutes or so of good gory fun, and nothing more; but sometimes, you need nothing more.
Stitches is set for a UK release on 26th October, from Kaleidoscope.