Ross Noble starring as a killer clown in an Irish horror movie. It may sound like a highlight in one of his rambling randomly assembled stand up routines, but instead exists in the form of Stitches, the first film to occupy a late night slot at this year’s Frightfest.
After one of the greatest film introductions ever seen at the festival (just to give you a taste, it involved the Geordie performing a mime of a member of the front row combing semen out of his beard – as you could imagine director Connor McConagh took a backseat), Stitches began.
Richard ‘Stitches’ Grindle (Noble) is the Bad Lieutenant of the clown world. A heavy drinker and smoker, he is introduced begrudgingly breaking off intercourse to perform at children’s party. The gig goes from bad to worse when, after being mocked by the little ‘uns, he trips and lands face down on the wrong end of a knife. Years later, with the help of a clown cult, he rises from the grave to get his revenge on the meddling kids that sent him there at one of their house parties.
Horror-comedy is a tricky genre to pull off and for every Cockneys vs. Zombies there’s a Strippers vs. Werewolves. Whilst Stitches is unlikely to trouble coulrophobics or indeed induce the phobia of clowns in those currently unaffected by the curly hair/big shoes combination, it is often very funny and a series of wonderful death sequences makes for an entertaining, if never scary, watch. Freddy had his glove, Jason had his machete and thanks to the day job, Stitches has a whole arsenal of balloons, red noses and, in one delightful moment, an umbrella to help slice and dice the Irish Inbetweeners.
For better, and for worse, the film lives and dies with its clown. When Stitches flat lines, the film does too, and the ensuing clown-free section only serves to highlight that the young leads (They did have names but you’ll know them as the nice one, the dumb one, the horny one and the plump camp one….), whilst charming, don’t have funny enough bones to carry a school section that feels much longer that it actually is. That said, when the clown comes back to life, so does the film and its great final third ensures that Stitches ends on the bloodiest of highs.
The danger with letting Ross Noble do the introduction to Stitches was always going to be that the film following it won’t be as funny but Stitches manages to dodge that particular cream pie thanks some imaginative death sequences, buckets of blood and some brilliantly toe curling gags. It’s silly, gory fun that lags a little but benefits massively from having a comedy great in the big shoes.
Stitches arrives in UK cinemas this Halloween.