Director: Conor McMahon
Screenplay: Conor McMahon, David O’Brien
Starring: Ross Noble, Tommy Knight, Shane Murray Corcoran, Gemma-Leah Devereux
Producers: John McDonnell, Brendan McCarthy, Ruth Treacy, Julianne Forde
Running Time: 83 min
BBFC Rating: 18
Richard “Stitches” Grindle (Noble) is a washed up, in the gutter clown clawing a meagre living from children’s parties. Late for the tenth birthday party of Tom (Knight), sleight of hand, juggling and balloon puppetry are not enough for the foul mouthed, unruly kids berating the downtrodden entertainer. The clown is humiliated and abused by the children before meeting a rather gruesome accidental death.
Fast forward six years, Tom has retreated socially and suffers from anxiety attacks. In the week leading up to his sixteenth birthday, Tom invites friend Vinny (Corcoran) to help him celebrate on the night whilst Tom’s mother is out of town. Vinny convinces Tom to have a party by suggesting he could use the opportunity to get close to estranged childhood sweetheart, Kate (Devereux).
One of the party invites finds its way to Stitches’ grave and the clown is resurrected to wreak murderous revenge on the children who caused his untimely demise. Stitches hunts down his former tiny tormentors, killing each one off in a way related to how they mistreated him.
The opening of Stitches could be a sketch from The League of Gentleman, were it not for the Irish setting. If Stitches’ larger than life character and actions are not weird enough, Tom even runs into a “coven” of clowns after Stitches funeral.
Six years on and things are closer to normal. Tom and his friends are in secondary school and have evolved into stereotypes, not unusual or wrong for horror, or the comedy horror sub-genre. The revenge by numbers scenario is not exactly new, although this is not quite a send up of that, feeling more like a comedy version of Scream than it does Scary Movie.
Ross Noble deftly and purposely portrays his title character as he remembers the 1970’s northern club comedians, a parallel I drew before hearing this in the extras. He was also able to bring his own circus skills to the screen. Known for his stand-up comedy and appearances on panel shows, Noble has had very little acting experience before this role, not that this detracts, or matters in any way.
Tommy Knight may be recognisable as Luke Smith from Dr Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures amongst other, less prolific appearances. His experience is noticeable as he brings Tom to life as a truly believable teen with issues. Gemma-Leah Devereux (The Tudors, Casualty) also brings credibility to Kate and you really do root for them to rekindle their friendship and get together romantically. Oh, and survive!
The rest of the cast are unknown and inexperienced and that shows, with a few exceptions, notably Corcoran who handles Vinny rather well. Again, the lack of tangible acting talent is not necessarily a deal breaker for Stitches, which shines in other areas.
There are some laugh out loud moments throughout the movie. Sometimes generally funny moments, other times for the purposeful use of clichés, silliness, or just things you remember from your own childhood.
The horror does not waste time on suspense, preferring instead to head straight for the gore. There are some pretty inventive ways of dispatching people during the course of Stitches’ killing spree, allowing him to use various items from his entertainment arsenal. Each kill is celebrated with numerous one liners worthy of a 1980’s action movie.
There are some interesting extras on the disc including a making of, bloopers and a Q&A session from the premiere.
Stitches is an enjoyable, bloody and funny romp, well worth investing 83 minutes of your time on. It is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.
Review by Keiran McGreevy