CLOWN. If you’re currently staring at a blank page, attempting to brainstorm ideas for a horror flick, the word clown at the top of said page might be a good start. Of all the people I’ve met with specific fears and phobias, those who suffer with coulrophobia tend to have the strongest reaction to that thing they’re afraid of. I get it to a degree, spot a big, hairy spider in your room and someone might come and catch it with a mug and coaster, find a clown in your room unexpectedly and you’re in the kind of deep doo-doo that a mug and coaster will offer little defense against. Ignoring Tim Curry’s nightmare machine take on Pennywise the dancing clown in the TV adaptation of Stephen King’s It, clowns don’t bother me one bit, I’m more horrified that they were ever considered legitimate entertainment, so the notion of yet another slasher flick with a killer clown on the loose doesn’t particularly excite me. However, finding out that brilliantly odd surrealist stand up Ross Noble plays the eponymous bloodthirsty children’s entertainer in Stitches helped it to pique my interest more than most.
The story is as slight as they come, when a group of kids play a prank on the filthy, low rent clown hired for Tom’s (Tommy Knight) birthday, poor Stitches (Noble) ends up dead in a particularly gruesome fashion. Fastfoward six years and Tom, now deathly afraid of both clowns and parties, decides to throw a shindig in the hope of impressing classmate Kate (Gemma-Leah Devereux), causing Stitches to rise from the grave and seek bloody revenge.
It’s not really a recipe for anything special, it’s been done before and repeated ad nauseum, but there are some terrific ideas at work in Stitches that help it rise above its clichéd plot.
First is the casting of Ross Noble, who’s so naturally funny and perversely likeable as the manky undead clown that it’s a delight to watch him mutilate these poor kids, despite them all being unexpectedly likeable themselves. Noble looks to be having a ball throughout and the sense of fun is contagious.
Another big plus comes in the form of its hugely inventive and grotesquely amusing death scenes. A slasher movie with no real scares needs to be gory and imaginative when it comes to its slaughter, and Stitches is a winner on both counts, the blood and gore runs freely and the methods with which Stitches dispatches his victims are outrageous, they’re both gloriously nasty and very often laugh out loud funny.
Stitches wins more points for its smart use of references to other movies, it’s full of sly little gags for the more observant horror geek, with plenty of clever, amusing references to movies as diverse as Akira and Friday the 13th Part III, I can definitely see it being a movie that rewards repeat viewings.
There are also a few genuinely original ideas in there fighting against the more clichéd ones, there’s a thoroughly creepy clown funeral ritual involving painted eggs, an unusual method of tracking victims via Stitches’ red clown nose, these are the sort of clever little touches that set Stitches apart from more standard fare.
It’s no masterpiece by any means, it’s not remotely scary and it’s as slight as movies get, just a bit of daft popcorn entertainment with little substance, but it never really tries to be anything other than goofy, gory fun, which it succeeds in completely.
Director: Conor McMahon
Writers: Conor McMahon, David O’Brien
Stars: Ross Noble, Tommy Knight, Eoghan McQuinn
Runtime: 86 min