YEAR RELEASE: 2012
DIRECTOR: Vince McMahon
CAST: Ross Noble, Tommy Knight
A creepy clown plus careless teens equals an Irish horror hit that will have you in stitches, writes PAUL MOYNIHAN
When you think about the history of horror cinema, an elite crew of creeps dominates the genre, generally consisting of the vampire, the werewolf, the witch and the zombie. However, a less recognised (but equally terrifying) movie monster exists: the clown. The most famous of these is, of course, Tim Curry’s Pennywise, the sinister star of Stephen King adaptation IT. 2012 saw the addition of a more jovial (but no less creepy) clown to the canon; his name is Stitches.
Directed by Conor McMahon, this fun slasher flick tells the tale of Richard ‘Stitches’ Grindle (comedian Ross Noble), a clown-for-hire whose approach to the job is comically unconventional. Foul-mouthed and nasty, he’s not your typical kid’s party entertainer. He is booked for Tom’s (Ryan Burke) tenth birthday party and shows up a mess. His half-hearted attempts at keeping the children entertained are met with insults. One of the kids hopes to liven things up by tying Stitches’ shoe-laces together.
Things take a splatterific turn for the worst when Stitches trips, falls backwards, and lands on a butcher knife that Tom’s mother had left blade-up in the dishwasher. As blood spurts from the clown’s head, he collapses to the ground, dead. Haunted by this harrowing event, young Tom visits the clown’s grave, only to discover a group of mourning clowns performing a strange ritual.
Six years on, and Tom (now played by Tommy Knight) is still haunted by the visions of Stitches’ horrific demise. It doesn’t stop him from hosting another massive birthday celebration in his sizeable mansion (we’ve all seen enough slasher flicks to know that this is a deathwish). As the party gets underway, Stitches rises from the grave, hell-bent on exacting revenge on the kids who were at Tom’s party six years ago. The results are gory, grim and altogether hilarious.
Ross Noble steals the show as the titular character. His portrayal of a burned-out clown is excellent, and thanks to a fun script, he delivers some inventive and witty one-liners. One of the most surprising things about the film is the casting of likeable young actors. Gaining the attention of the horror audience can be difficult when it comes to the depiction of beer-swilling teens, but the characters in Stitches are, for the most part, less annoying than those seen in other modern horror films.
There is plenty of gore on show for fans of more grisly fare, and some of the death scenes are incredibly funny and wonderfully designed. There is even an impressive, laugh-out-loud nod to David Cronenberg’s Scanners. Some of the make-up effects have a b-movie quality, and in places they can appear weak. I found this quite charming considering the film’s low budget.
Director McMahon does a good job of keeping things lively once the action starts, despite some slow pacing in some of the earlier scenes.
The influence of Edgar Wright’s Shaun Of The Dead is also evident, with some snappy editing and well-planned camera setups.
The film’s biggest weakness is its televisual feel which is largely down to some of the music, which feels slightly cheap at times. Despite this setback, it still works as a horror/dark comedy, with plenty of nods to the classic 80s slashers.
A running time of 86 minutes keeps the film tight and effective, providing plenty of entertainment in such a short space of time. Stitches is definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of horror, and even more so if you love to laugh as well as scream.