After the titular Stitches the Clown (Ross Noble) shows up late for a routine kids’ birthday party, he ends up leaving in the hands of the coroner due to a prank gone awry. Six years later, he rises from the grave to get his revenge on the kids who inadvertently killed him. Conveniently, on the anniversary of the party where he died, there just so happens to be another party for him to crash with the same attendees.
Clowns have a varied history in scary movies. At one end you have Pennywise from Stephen King’s It, a face that still gives viewers chills over two decades later. At the other, you have Killer Klowns from Outer Space, which has about as much clever ridiculous nonsense as is possible to cram into a horror spoof about circus entertainers. Stitches falls somewhere in the middle, acting as both parody and gore-fest, and this split-personality take on the character left me with mixed reactions.
The “victim returning from the dead for revenge” theme has been done to death from I Know What You Did Last Summer to The Crow, so standing out in the crowd will require some originality. As Tom (Tommy Knight) tries to seal the deal with long-time crush Kate (Gemma-Leah Devereux) at a party at his house while his mom is out of town, Stitches shows up to exact revenge on those who pranked him -- namely, each of Tom’s friends who was at the fateful party six years earlier. The death scenes play on the clown motif pretty well, ranging from getting impaled on an umbrella that erupts in a cloud of glitter when opened (or blood, in the latter use), to pulling a rabbit out of someone’s throat, to ripping out intestines and making balloon animals out of them. Chase sequences also yuk it up, showing the antagonist walking on power lines as if they were a tightrope, or entering a low-speed road chase on a tricycle.
The effects never reach the realm of being convincing or off-putting, always leaving some clear indications of CGI or prosthetics. Watching it in high definition on Blu-ray will give you a better look at some of the gorier shots -- heads exploding in slow motion, blood and entrails flying everywhere -- but the gore is so literal and visceral that the added resolution kind of belabors the point. One place higher definition might have been enjoyable is during the ubiquitous and mandatory teen premarital sex scenes, except that everything here is basically PG-13.
The parody elements were mostly corny, seldom eliciting more than a smirk, but they were inventive at times, like when Stitches gives a hip-thrust salutation to one of his more attractive victims and a party favor toots and unrolls out of his pants. There wasn’t anything too off-the-wall or punny to be memorable, like carnivorous popcorn, cotton candy cocoons, vampiric crazy straws, or a clown car with literally a dozen monster clowns in it (I’m looking at you, Killer Klowns).
Stitches comes off as not particularly threatening or intimidating, other than being brought back from the dead by a dark ritual performed by some other deranged clowns in the cemetery where Stitches’ body was buried. Nothing about this movie was scary, and the humor, while obvious, didn’t play as well as it could have, either. It ended up being a somewhat less smart mashup of elements from Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and the goofiness of movies like Army of Darkness or Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. Thing is, I’d rather watch any of those movies before giving Stitches another spin. It’s not bad, it’s just not especially good, either. Director/writer Conor McMahon has potential, and I’ll be interested to see what he does next.
It’s worth noting that the film was made in Ireland, with a cast laden with accents, some thicker than others. This made some of the dialogue hard to understand for a Yankee like me, and even with subtitles on, some of it moves so fast that it’s tricky to follow. The story and dialogue aren’t essential to someone just wanting to watch some teenagers get drunk, screw, and get hacked to pieces, but it helps to at least have some idea what’s going on if you’re to have any hope of identifying with, relating to, or rooting for the protagonists.
Accompanying the feature are a 20-minute making-of, bloopers, the movie’s trailer, and commentary with Ross Noble and Conor McMahon -- a reasonable smattering of extras for those who want to get more out of the flick and see where it’s headed. The bloopers and outtakes (some shown during the outtro credits) were genuinely funny, and perhaps should have been used as inspiration for the jokes that made it into the final cut.
If you want to see a slasher movie featuring an unscary clown committing novel but cheesy acts of violence against stereotypical teenagers, Stitches is the movie for you. Dig in. If you don’t fall into this particular niche, there are better options out there.