Directed by Conor McMahon
If a clown dies before finishing a party, he can never rest in peace... and the joke is never as funny the second time round...
So says the head of a secretive clown council, in reference to the recent death of Richard “Stitches” Grindle. A rather unsavoury character, Stitches the Clown lives in a perilously-perched Cliffside caravan and is introduced in the opening scene currently engaged in a bit of doggy-style with a rather buxom lady, cigarette dangling from his obscenity-spewing lips.
His job for the day is a children’s birthday party. The birthday boy is Tom (Knight), whose antics alongside his gaggle of similarly spoilt-brat friends sees poor Grindle meet a rather nasty end via kitchenware. Fast-forward six years, and Tom is a jumpy, reclusive kind of teenager. Forever scarred by his experience on that fateful day, he’s terrified of clowns and the ominous words of the clown council elder the night of Stitches’ funeral. In an effort to help him out, Tom’s friends arrange a pumpin’ house party to celebrate his birthday. Unfortunately for them, Stitches has also received an invitation that he won’t pass up in his quest for vengeance.
With Stitches director Conor McMahon has created the kind of super-entertaining midnight movie that will constantly delight fans of 80s slasher and comedy-horror flicks. The script is over-the-top ludicrous, creating a wacky mythology and sprinting with it all the way to the finish, with endless gags and punchlines (both visual and spoken) served up every other minute. Importantly, the cast here actually look and act like party-going teenagers, even if they are essentially just various archetypes (the shy guy, the ex-flame, the self-obsessed musician, the slut, the asshole, the gay friend, etc.); but hey, this is a lighthearted comedic slasher featuring an undead clown offing teens in inventive ways. Who needs more?
And inventive it is. Stitches is home to some of the most diabolically brilliant kill scenes to hit the screen in years, with such a rigorous sense of care and detail put into them that the smile on your face will be likely to have you looking a little clown-like, yourself. Whether the murderous entertainer is ripping off limbs, kicking off heads, impaling people on umbrellas or making balloon animals from one particularly unlucky chap’s intestines, the fun factor blows right off the scale. That’s not to mention quite possibly the best filmic use of Cutting Crew’s “(I Just) Died in Your Arms” that you’re ever likely to see. Even thinking about it now causes a fond chuckle, and that’s a great thing.
Star of the show here is obviously British funnyman Ross Noble as the eponymous stalker, and while his demeanour and witty punchline delivery is spot on throughout (his arm-swinging run and hilarious shuffle-walk exit from a murder scene are brilliant touches), the character of Stitches himself lacks the kind of definition that makes for the most iconic slasher villains. Rather, given the accent, he comes across as little more than an openly malevolent rendition of Reece Shearsmith’s Mr. Jelly character from "Psychoville" crossed with Freddy Krueger at his most wisecracking heights.
Still, while the villain just falls short of truly making a mark within the genre, Stitches is a riot from beginning to end and a rollicking 80s throwback that anyone seeking some gory fun and gut-busting laughs would be an absolute fool to miss. There’s a new lead clown in this circus, and his name is Stitches.
4 out of 5