Review: Stitches / Cert: 18 / Director: Conor McMahon / Screenplay: Conor McMahon, David O’Brien / Starring: Ross Noble, Tommy Knight, Gemma-Leah Devereux, John McDonnell / Release Date: October 27th
Stitches, the gruesome cinematic debut for popular TV comic Ross Noble is undeniably extremely funny and at its best when he’s on screen, either as the sleazy sex-crazed, grubby clown of the title or else his resurrected murderous cadaver (and we’re never really sure if the reanimated Stitches is a ghost or a zombie or some unholy combination of both).
We meet Richard 'Stitches' Grindle running late for Tommy’s tenth birthday party. Stitches is scruffy, unkempt and largely incompetent - think Psychoville‘s Mr Jelly and then some. The kids at the party ruthlessly torment him and when his shoelaces are tied together he loses his balance, topples back into the kitchen and impales himself - twice - on a very large kitchen knife. Fast-forward six years and young Tommy is now a gangly teenager, bullied at school by cockier kids and tormented at night by dreams of Stitches who, unfortunately, has been buried in a graveyard right outside his bedroom window. Tommy throws an unsupervised sixteenth birthday party which has slightly more mature entertainment in store - including a dead clown brought back to life and determined to avenge himself on those who were responsible for his premature death. Stitches executes his revenge with grisly relish - some of the deaths here verge on the deeply unpleasant and any laughter generated by seeing a teenager’s head inflated until it explodes or another boy’s head opened up with a tin-opener and the brains scooped out is of the distinctly uncomfortable variety.
When beyond-the-grave vengeance flicks work it’s because you can’t help feeling that the victims are really getting what they deserve. But the kids in Stitches aren't especially malicious and the clown’s death is really just a tragic, comic accident. As teenagers they’re a (stereo) typically grim bunch but we’re really not sure they deserve to be massacred with such bloody relish. Stitches himself is more fun when he’s alive - resurrected he’s just a wisecracking murderer - and the film would be stronger with a more confident lead character. The Sarah Jane Adventures' Tommy Knight looks a little out of his depth here as teenage Tommy but far more successful are his colourful, larger-than-life contemporaries who are just a bunch of excitable hormonal teens rather than a group of secret killers who get what’s coming to them.
If you can set aside any concerns about the morality of the story and just go with the flow, you’ll most likely find that Stitches is gloriously gruesome and often uproariously funny. Tonal misgivings notwithstanding, it’s undoubtedly the new clown prince of horror comedy.
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10