You don’t really need me to tell you about their scare potential, do I? Those pasty faces and red noses and garish clothes and how they all fit into those tiny cars. In my last clown-themed KLOWN KAMP MASSACRE, I already went into detail about how there are no nice clowns out there (a No-Prize to anyone who can disprove it).
And British/Irish movie horror-comedy STITCHES, directed by Conor McMahon (DEAD MEAT), is not going to buck the trend. McMahon started work on STITCHES after receiving a grant from The Irish Film Board, where he did his filming, and the movie marks the movie debut of British stand-up comedian Ross Noble, a veteran comedian famous for his surreal, stream-of-consciousness routines. The list of comedians turned actors is as long as the list of bad performances from Rob Schneider, but not many I think would venture outside their comfort zones to play a murderous clown come back from the dead (though Jerry Lewis did make a movie THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED, a Holocaust drama that was never publicly released), even if STITCHES is meant to be a horror-comedy…
The opening titles appear over the extreme close up of red and white colours, but as the camera pulls back, we find we are looking at a painted egg in a glass jar, observed by a woman being screwed from behind by a fully-made up clown, Richard Grindle, aka “Stitches” (Ross Noble), who explains that “they” made him do it when he became a clown. Before he can explain further, or for that matter finish his business, he pulls out – literally – as he remembers “I’ve gotta do some little bastard’s party.”
The little bastard is 10-year-old Tommy, who seems like the type of clean-cut kid who would tell you off for swearing. His friends, however, prove to be walking, talking advertisements for birth control, being profane, disrespectful and disruptive little shits. They respond to Stitches’ crap attempts at party tricks and balloon animals by tying his clown shoes together and hitting him with a ball. Stitches falls back onto a dishwasher tray full of sharp utensils… ouch. Tommy is drenched in copious amounts of blood as he witnesses the death of the clown, and one can expect lots of expensive therapy later.
Stitches is buried in full clown gear in a cemetery near Tommy’s home (wow, bet that pushes the real estate values up) and the night after the funeral, a guilt-ridden Tommy rides out to leave a squirting flower, one of Stitches’ props, onto his grave. But once there he finds a gaggle of clowns (or is the collective noun for clowns a giggle?) there, performing some sort of ritual involving the egg. They catch Tommy, and warn him that a clown who doesn’t finish a party can never rest… and the joke is never as funny the second time around…
Six years later, the teenage Tommy (Tommy Knight, DOCTOR WHO) is a tense little scarecrow, on medication, and haunted by visions of red noses, huge shows, and his biology teacher becoming a clown who rips his friend’s genitals off and sends them flying through the air on a balloon…
STITCHES is billed as a horror-comedy, though the comedy here stems more from the creative deaths Stitches inflicts on his victims: pulling rabbits out of people via their mouths, scooping out brains with ice cream scoops, balloon animals made from intestines, death by umbrella (don’t ask), balloon pumps… the kills are predictable, but explicit, and done with pace and panache – and gallons and gallons of blood. In a nice if silly touch reminiscent of something they’d do in KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE, Stitches sends his red rubber nose off to sniff around the house for his next victims!
The rest of the humour falls flat. Ross Noble makes for an effective psychotic killer, which is surprising if you’ve only ever known him for his stand-up routines (the American equivalent might be if Patton Oswalt remade AMERICAN PSYCHO), but the other attempts at jokes fail, and such is Noble’s success in the role in comparison is such that I wished the director had gone even darker and more serious than he did with the movie. There are moments when McMahon shows he could have done something really intense with this, such as the Stitches resurrection scene, and I liked the hints at clown mythology. Another criticism is that I missed much of the dialogue because of the heavy Irish accents – and I lived in the Emerald Isle for over ten years!
But really, you’re gonna watch STITCHES for the kill scenes, and gruesome tastelessness, and there is certainly that in abundance here. Clowns are all evil, so it’s always good to have more evidence to it. The DVD has already been released in the UK, and will be available in America from 2 April. Watch the trailer below and judge for yourself.
Director: Conor McMahon
Plot: 2 out of 5 stars
Gore: 9 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 1 out of 5 brains (if you count a dead clown. I do)
Reviewed by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien. The D is silent. Unlike your girlfriend when I was with her last night (SNAP!)