Clowns have a had a lot of bad press as far as the cinema and TV is concerned. Coulrophobia (an irrational fear of clowns) has obviously been fuelled over the years by the likes of Pennywise from Stephen Kings It, John Wayne Gacy (notorious serial killer) and the clown from Poltergeist. And let’s not forget Ronald McDonald – that one puts a shiver down my spine! The image of a clown has been somewhat tarnished over the years and Stitches does nothing to help improve that image – Max Clifford anyone???
So back to Stitches. Comedy and horror is a hybrid genre that generally does not work for me. Yes, there have been a few classics over the years such as Braindead and Shaun of the Dead, but the bulk of these films fail miserably as they try and fuse two opposing senses – fear and fun – together in often disastrous ways.
Stitches Grindle (played brilliantly by Ross Noble – who has experience in this area as he worked as a children’s entertainer) is a very gruff, disillusioned clown. In the first scene he is having intercourse, smoking a cigarette with a female saying ‘F*ck me clown’, and this sets the scene for the film as he rushes, cursing, to a children’s party without even washing his hands! As with most vengeance films, it comes as no surprise that the events of the party have huge repercussions for the victims six years later, so do your calculations. Tommy, played well by Tommy Knight (Sarah Jane Adventures) is still traumatised since his 10th Birthday party, and is tricked into having a 16th Birthday party, Needless to say, many of those who attended the first birthday party are slain one by one, ‘a la clown style’. Some of these scenes are genuinely funny but quite gruesome, just to warn you.
The film works well, with nods to Mr Jelly (Reece Shearsmith in Psychoville) and a sense of humour very similar to The League Of Gentlemen. Ross Noble excels in a role he was born to play, as he picks off characters one by one with the help of his red nose. The children all appear very natural in their roles, not the glossed up victims we normally get in most horror films, but kids with normal issues, spots, girlfriend problems, bullying and popularity issues. The one liners are funny, there are good characters – including the hilariously named Monster Munch Mary – and look out for Stitches on the tricycle and the ice cream scoop scene….Yuk!
Overall Verdict: Director Conor McMohan manages to fuse horror and humour well. The comic timing is excellent, the humour is very dark and dry, we care about the characters, and most of all we have a mass killer akin to Freddie Kruger, who slaughters teenagers and yet we still have an affinity with him.
Reviewer: Stephen Sclater