Director: Conor McMahon
Cast: Ross Noble, Tommy Knight, Gemma-Leagh Devereux
Watch Stitches online in the UK: Amazon Prime / Shudder UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
Those who grew up in the 1990s may recall an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? about an evil clown. It was freaky as hell. But clowns are everywhere on screens these days, from that song by Crispin Glover to Psychoville’s one-handed Mr Jelly. So it’s no surprise to see someone have a stab at a modern clowny horror comedy. What might surprise you is their choice to play the sinister Stitches: Ross Noble.
The Newcastle comedian gets right into it. He growls and grimaces from under his make-up, as he stalks after do-gooder Tom (Knight) and his friends. Why? Because they’re the ones who killed him. Flash back 10 odd years and Stitches stops mid-shag to go and entertain at wee Tom’s birthday party. One unfortunately placed knife later and he’s throwing custard pies in the big top in the sky. It’s a gleefully warped introduction to Conor McMahon’s silly slasher – a scene so hilariously black that it could have come straight out of The League of Gentlemen. It’s also the best part of the film.
The rest of the runtime sees Stitches brought back to life by a black magic clown sect. Performing some voo doo on his face-painted egg, they resurrect him so he can finish the show he started: Tom’s birthday.
Sex, drink, crass jokes and bland teens abound, as Stitches creeps around Tom’s 16th. Eventually, he starts wreaking revenge. This is where McMahon really makes his mark, killing one kid with an umbrella, another with balloon modelling, and so on. Alongside an inspired use of the clown’s red nose, they’re twisted, sick murders, brilliant pieces of trashy FX that make you look twice.
But while Stitches spills guts nicely, it doesn’t skewer your funny bone. “Taken from behind!” Noble cries at one point, dropping terrible deadpan puns after each death. To see it’s hit and miss is an understatement.
If any of the victims were likeable – or even memorable – that wouldn’t be a problem. But with a horde of forgettable teenagers to bump off one by one, Stitches risks losing its momentum and laughs as it goes on. The runtime is wisely kept short, but even our main couple, the nervous Tommy Knight and token-love-interest Gemma-Leagh Devereux, are unable to distract from the script’s rushed, uneven climax.
And so it falls to Noble’s effort to keep it going. Using his street entertaining skills, he juggles, twiddles umbrellas and works the props with impressive flair. He’s clearly having the time of his life. It’s just a shame we can’t always say the same. Still, bonus points for removing a man’s brain with an ice cream scoop. Not even Are You Afraid of the Dark? managed that.
Stitches is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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