Talking Movies

October 24, 2012

Stitches

Conor McMahon, writer/director of cult Irish zombie flick Dead Meat, teams up with stand-up Ross Noble for a goretastic horror-comedy about a revenant killer clown.
 
Noble plays Richard ‘Stitches’ Grindle, a jaded clown working the children’s birthday circuit. A particularly tough crowd of 10 year olds sees a regular gig, thru a series of unfortunate events, end in Stitches’ accidental and very grisly death at the hands of the unruly children. Six years later the children have grown up, even more obnoxious than their younger selves; with the exception of the traumatised birthday boy Tommy (Tommy Knight) and his old crush Kate (Gemma Leah Deveraux). Tommy’s mother travels for work just as his birthday looms, and so his friend Vinny bullies Tommy into holding his first birthday party since Stitches died. But gathering the other guests from that fatal party (boisterous Richie, camp Bulger, bullying Paul, and bitchy Sarah) on the anniversary inevitably summons up the vengeful ghost of Stitches…
 
Stitches’ opening will produce some deep cultural confusion. Stitches and Tommy are both English, as is Stitches’ girlfriend and Tommy’s mother, so you assume the film is set in England. But no, a licence plate reveals that it’s set in Wicklow, but no one makes any reference to stray accents; before a later reference to a girl being easier to get into than community college adds another layer of baffling cultural colonisation. Noble is a supporting presence for a surprisingly lengthy time leaving Knight to carry the film alongside Deveraux’s caring heroine. Both are fine but structural conventions allow them to be overshadowed by wonderfully colourful supporting performances from Roisin Barron as the verbally abrasive and physically abusive mean girl Sarah, and Tommy Cullen as Kate’s narcissistic boyfriend Dan who has something of the young Matthew Goode about his swagger.
 
Noble, the former circus stilt-walker, would seem perfect casting as a diabolical undead clown, but while he delivers some good one-liners amidst the mayhem, too often you feel his improv comedy skills are being subordinated to a not particularly sharp script. McMahon and his co-writer (and fellow IADT trained editor) David O’Brien seem happy to just insert shlock moments into a structurally sound horror. Brains being scooped out, arms ripped off, intestines being pulled out, heads kicked off, and eyes being poked out; all occur in slow motion, usually in close up, and are lingered on in loving and farcically gory detail. But, bar a truly delirious piece of practical magic involving a pump and an inflating head, this parade of gross-out shlock never quite hits the mark. The intentions are good, there’s even an in-joke cameo from a Dead Meat star as an archetypal teacher, but horror-comedy’s a trickier proposition than comedy-horror.
 
Stitches is competent work that is quite amusing in places, but it doesn’t match up to a top-notch horror-comedy like Slither.
 
2/5

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