Writer/director Conor McMahon showcases the cutting-edge humour of edgy British comedian Ross Noble in his feature debut, making Film4 FrightFest entry Stitches (2012) a pleasant surprise in a gross-out, schoolboy fashion. There are certainly a number of marked similarities to that other anarchic jester jape, Funny Man (1994). However, where that slice of infantile hokum was nauseating pure and simple, Stitches may well leave you doubled-up with laughter.
Stitches (Noble), a down-on-his-luck clown who makes a living performing magic tricks at rich kid’s birthday parties, meets a gruesome demise after his show is cut short (literally) by the spoilt brats he has been paid to entertain. Several years later the same children, now all responsible teenagers (like you’re going to believe that), decide to celebrate the birthday of one of their number in typically boisterous fashion. The party is in full swing until it’s gate-crashed by an old adversary, determined to make this a night to dismember for all involved.
Forget subtlety where McMahon’s Stitches is concerned. This in-your-face exercise of over-the-top crassness doesn’t even allude to anything so sophisticated. It’s for this reason however, that it works. Where as many modern horror films try to hide their visceral nastiness behind a social message or deeper statement, those like Stitches and fellow FrightFest entry Cockneys vs Zombies (2012) glory in their total abandonment to comedy carnage.
The film’s tone is set before the opening credits have even rolled, as Noble’s character – in full clown dress – is seen ‘fooling around’ with a lady friend in his caravan. The young cast led by Tommy Knight and Gemma-Leagh Devereux are entirely believable as the party-loving teenagers, whilst Noble is suitably grotesque as the potty-mouthed, wisecracking ghoul. However, it’s the inventive murders which make this worth seeing, from ice-cream scooped brains to one individual having his intestines manipulated like a modelling balloon.
After watching McMahon’s Stitches, you may well begin to understand why so many people suffer from coulrophobia – the fear of clowns. Whilst some are tickled by the painted performers, Noble’s demonic antagonist is likely to lead to more than a few sleepless nights for the easily affected.
From 23-27 August, CineVue will be reporting back from this year’s Film4 FrightFest with a bucket-load of gruesome reviews. For more of our festival coverage, simply follow this link.