Horror movies have a built in success formula. It all starts with their audience, mostly young folks ranging from 13 to 25 years of age looking for cheap and safe thrills. And since it’s not high art, producers can use no name attractive actors, newbie directors and shoddy writing to bring it to a theater near them. However all this doesn’t stop them from actually being pretty bad movies. This slapdash approach does nothing but try to perpetuate a flow of money. Occasionally a lover of all things horror, who happens to have a good grasp on what actually makes for entertaining art, gets a chance. Conor McMahon, a horror movie fan himself, has gotten that chance.
The Irish film “Stitches” stars comedian Ross Noble as the titular character. He’s trashy, short tempered and doesn’t care about anything. Minutes into the movie he gets a gig at 10 year old Tom’s (Tommy Knight) birthday party filled with his gang of friends, Vinny, Kate, Bulger, Richie, Sarah and Paul. With as much effort as he can muster he attempts to entertain the children with juggling, magic and general buffoonery. Kids, being who they are, decide to pull a little prank on him by tying his shoelaces together. Let’s just say after tripping he ends up with a large kitchen knife through his head resulting in a blood shower for poor Tom and his kitchen floor. Years later the children are now teenagers in high school when Stitches rises for his revenge.
Not going to lie, when I saw the Blu-ray cover and read the teaser paragraph about a dead clown coming back for revenge, I let out an audible sigh. I had never heard of this movie or Ross Noble before. 86 minutes later I was telling myself it was one top five horror movies I’ve seen in the last decade. The easy thing to say is that my expectations were so low that it inevitably ended up being better automatically, but that would not be the truth. “Stitches” is a genuinely well made little film. The caveat being that you’re a horror fan who likes inventive death scenes and is willing to laugh at an onslaught of bad puns, we’re talking Roger Moore/James Bond style puns. The plot progresses with stretches of implausibility but it’s forgivable, after all it’s about a zombie clown. I don’t know if the clown history they talk about in the film is correct but they really do a good job selling it.
What really helps the film is that McMahon does not line up a cast of despicable characters that you hope get dispatched in horrific ways. They are normal teenagers who actually act nice to one another and have their own innocent adolescent idiosyncrasies. Crass language and behavior usually permeate these types of movies but Conor keeps it light and simple letting the characters flow naturally instead of forcing hackneyed foul-mouthed dialogue. Ross Noble does a terrific job in his role. His character easily could have been an annoying immature specimen but in reality he comes off as pissed off and uses his humor to make himself laugh and not the audience.
This is not a watered down PG-13 horror film. The gore is completely over-the-top a la “Evil Dead II” style. The squeamish and animal lovers should beware of this movie. There are moments of ultra slow-mo extreme gore. Heads get kicked off, intestines get turned into balloon animals and one poor sod even gets his head blown up with a bicycle tire pump. The practical special effects are above average and even when the effects dip down exposing the minuscule budget, they just add to the lunacy of it all. It’s absurd and it knows it’s absurd. Stitches uses his clown mischief to his advantage as he rides a toddler’s undersized tricycle, walks a powerline like a tightrope and sends his anthropomorphic clown nose out on reconnaissance missions.
Shot in digital HD, the 1.85:1 picture is surprisingly nice to look at. There is a good amount of detail throughout and the colorful pallet comes across vividly. It seems to have been left alone without any post tampering with added filters. For this type of movie, it pretty satisfying.
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack is equally as good. Early on some nice thunder sounds heard through all five speakers demonstrates what the track is capable of. It is mostly front oriented however when the rears are used, it sounds accurate. There is some low end peppered throughout.
First and foremost is the Audio Commentary with Director Conor McMahon and star Ross Noble. There are many behind-the-scenes anecdotes including them talking about the people they rented the house from and how they sprayed blood everywhere on it. There’s much laughing and joking as they revealing how much fun they had making the movie. Next is a “Making of” in which the director talks about his fandom of films like “Evil dead II” and “Bad Taste”. Next is a blooper real that seems to show more fun on the set. Last, is a trailer for the film.
“Stitches” is not high art, but what it is is a nice effort from Conor McMahon who obviously has immense love for the horror genre, particularly the gorier horror comedies from the 80’s. If you want to be entertained and you’re not looking to be brought to a higher intellectual plain, then sit back, crack a beer and enjoy the lunacy.