I can’t wait until I one day own a production company that gives underground and foreign horror films a proper US wide release, but until then I’m going to sound like a bitchy, hipster, broken record complaining how mainstream horror is making a mockery of the genre right now and so many “dangerous” gems get straight to Blu-Ray/VOD releases.
A little Irish release named Stitches is the latest movie I’ve been forced to watch on my laptop after an iTunes rent, only to witness a full-blown horror/comedy epic that demands a proper cinematic viewing (super-comfy sofa, a large TV in the range of 50″ or so, an ultra-comfy blanket). How the f#ck was I forced to watch The Last Exorcism Part II in theaters, yet could barely find a rentable version of Stitches?!
Although I was stuck with a pair of headphones and my manageable laptop screen, the fun I had watching Conor McMahon’s riotous take on the teen slasher genre was incomparable to any film I’ve seen in 2013 to this point. Why? Strap in kiddies, because this clown puts on a performance that’s…to die for! (Couldn’t help myself)
Yes, if you didn’t already get the picture (above), Stitches centers around a murderous clown, played by comedian Ross Noble, who suffers an unfortunately early demise while putting on a cut-rate birthday show for little Tommy, as the kids play a cruel joke on the clown accidentally ending with a knife through Stitches’ pale, white face. The children are traumatized, a funeral is held, but then Tommy witnesses some kind of cultist clown sect carrying out a ritual for their fallen comrade, sending him into an incurable paranoia. Fast-forward six years and Tom (Tommy Knight) decides to throw a birthday rager while his mother is away on business to forget about the deadly incident, but it looks like Stitches has come back for an encore performance that’s no laughing matter – for our characters that is. For us viewers, it’s downright hilarious.
First and foremost we must tip our hats and honk our noses to salute funny-man Ross Noble for his outrageously outlandish performance as Stitches, the killer clown. In real life he was the clown you’d regret hiring, bumbling through a lazy set of tricks for the paycheck, but in death, he’s the clown you regret crossing – but that’s all thanks to Noble. As a killer, Stitches still tortured his victims with pun after pun, and killed them all while adapting methods from his children’s party days, but most importantly Noble continues that grumpily sarcastic tone which keeps the dark comedy flowing from one sick laugh to the next. Even down to the way creeps around corners or runs with his arms swinging, Noble never let’s that goofball personality vanish, which pays off even more than the most extravagant circus event. Right now Stitches has proven himself to be my favorite slasher villain of 2013, and you’re going to need some serious tricks up your sleeve to dethrone him.
Aside from Noble’s funny-bone chilling performance, writer/director Conor McMahon seriously brought the gore and death scenes to audience appeasing levels in his glorious three ring circus of pain. Every kill outplays the last in both grossness and awesomeness, pulling every possible trick out of Stitches’ bottomless hat of indulgent gorehound pleasures, delivering creativity, originality, and unapologetic entertainment to horror fans around the world. The greatest part about a murderous clown no doubt had to be the promise of a movie packed with darkly comedic kills followed by lame but entirely appropriate one-liners, and in that respect our fearless ringleader has an entire spectacle to show off through each and every completely bonkers death.
It’s so easy to lose grip of a horror comedy though by making one side weightier than the other, but Stitches mixes both sides perfectly. As I already said, Ross Noble is a damn legendary killer, mixing the charisma of Freddy Krueger with the brutality of Jason Voorhees, but Stitches as a character is also gleefully hilarious.
The situation becomes entirely more compelling and horrifying introducing the cultish background to clowns, because we can all agree one evil clown is bad enough – so imagine a whole satanic group?! The entire resurrection scene brings a surreal enjoyment to the plot, which is odd enough without chanting clowns, but together, well, f#ck clowns. But seriously, once Stitches joins the already acceptably awkward alcohol-promoted party, he’s just one bloody barrel of laughs – and sinister clown trinkets.
Hell, even the party-hearty young cast led by actor Tommy Knight are a riot to follow, behaving like the impressionable children they are. From the chubby gay friend Bulger (Thommas Kane Byrnes) to the ladies man Vinny (Shane Murray Corcoran), our cast are extremely likable and take their fates in stride, or fight the circumstances as best they can. It’s honestly all you can ask for in a film like Stitches where the focus is on over-the-top B-Movie influence and straight-up killer horror. Pleasant acting is just icing on the cake – or maybe in this case cream on the pie?
While Killer Klowns From Outer Space has amassed a cult following and even though other horror clowns have tried to slash their way to goofy glory, Stitches remains the best clown-centric horror movie since It. Yes, since Stephen King’s It. Conor McMahon’s film is perfect parts crudely executed humor and wickedly addictive slasher slayings, treated fairly through aggressively genre friendly writing which doesn’t care much for anyone outside its demographic. A true treat for genre fans looking for that next instant classic, I have a feeling our newest pal Stitches will cement himself quite the legacy. “Everybody happy?!” You bet your ass I am.
Stitches has all the makings of a perfect cult classic, effortlessly blending comedically dark clown work by Ross Noble with grade "A" horror shenanigans - plus you can't ignore that distinctively schlocky 80s feel.