Welcome to the freak show, readers! With American Horror Story: Freakshow now in full swing, why don’t we mess about with a movie about everyone’s favorite phobia, shall we?
Available On: Netflix
Stitches is a horror/comedy from 2012 created by Conor McHahon. It stars Ross Noble as Stitches, a birthday party clown who is killed in a children’s prank gone wrong at young Tommy’s 11th birthday. Tommy is horrified by the event, but later discovers that all clowns are in fact part of a secret society, taking a sacred and mystical pledge to carry on the rich tradition of entertainment. But if a clown does not complete a party, they are doomed until they can rise again and finish what they started. The problem is that as the clown’s leader says, “The joke isn’t as funny the second time ’round.”
We pick up the story six years later, once again on Tom’s birthday, played by Tommy Knight, and with his mother heading out of town for the weekend his friend’s decide to really go all out for his 17th. We see all the kids from that fateful day firmly planted now in their teens – from girl-crazy Vinny, (played by Shane Murray Corcoran,) to the fierce and fabulous Bulger, (Thommas Kane Byrne,) and even Tom’s childhood crush Kate (Gemma-Leah Devereux.) What easily looks like a sequel to Can’t Hardly Wait quickly spirals out of control once Stitches gets wind of the soiree, quite literally, and decides to crash the festivities.
I’ve never been one to be afraid of clowns. I’ve always liked them, and although I would never want to float around in a sewer with one, it would take a lot to really set me off regarding fear factors. That clown on American Horror Story is definitely up there in the ranks – good god. All that being said, I had skipped out on Stitches quite a few times just because I am not the biggest fan of clown horror movies. They just don’t do it for me.
I am so glad, so, so glad I finally took a chance on this film. Beyond the cover art worthy of a forgotten dollar-bin is a something truly noteworthy. It takes any clown-phobic person’s worse paranoia to epic levels and will flood a younger generation with enough mental scarring for a whole new era of killer clown nightmares. It’s disgusting, filthy, and altogether gross, and makes for a really joyous viewing.
This movie holds some of the most fun death scenes I have seen in decades. All of them are ridiculously campy and whimsical, which reads well with the movie’s undead clown theme. All the blood is candy apple red, and the deaths run the gamut of bizarre. Most are even quite fitting. For instance, when Richie, one of Tom’s friends played by Eoghan McQuinn is killed, his head is blown up like a balloon. At Tommy’s 11th birthday, he had requested a balloon and Stitches, at the time annoyed and jaded he was even having to do the party, refused. Sarah, a girl who bullies Tom with her boyfriend Paul, (played by Roisin Barron and Hugh Mulhern respectively,) are both killed in fashions reminiscent of their own actions on the day of Stitches’ death.
Sarah’s death is by far my favorite in the film, the scene involving a long battle finally punctuated by a shower of blood worthy of an Argento film. Even though she puts Regina George to shame with her crass flair, she puts up a good fight compared to Stitches’ other victims up this point. As her altercation unfolds interwoven with the ever-expected sex scene happening in another room, Sarah falls back on a bed where she then jabs her spike heel right into Stitches’ jugular. Oh, how I do so love a good high heel attack. Even though it ultimately doesn’t work out in her favor, anytime a director appreciates the lethal capability of a good stiletto it is aces in my book.
To try and put it simply without going through every single death, I will put it this way. It takes a lot to hold my attention these days. It’s hard to really intrigue me or capture my attention in a horror movie, especially a slasher. I tend to feel at times that if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. But what is so refreshing about Stitches is its imagination and genuine hope to entertain. The cast and crew aren’t out to make It, or Killer Klowns, they find that perfect middle ground of terrifying and hilarious.
Take the balloon kill; because Richie wanted a stegosaurus balloon animal back on Tommy’s 11th birthday, Stitches decides to play with Richie’s intestines and pop his head with an air pump. Richie’s talking nearly the whole time his head is getting blown up like a balloon. His eyes bulge out of his head in a grotesque version of Charlie Brown. When his head finally blows up, sure, there’s gore and ichor flying in all directions. But the tone of the movie along with its ludicrous physics make it something to truly enjoy. The trajectory and force of these kills are truly something that takes you back to your own childhood, when you saw your first horror movie and saw it as larger than life.
NAILS IN THE COFFIN: 7/10
The gags are many, the song choices perfectly ironic. It’s horrifying enough for those with coulrophobia and gory enough for any slasher movie lover. It has blood that would make a Hammer film proud, and enough gags, bawdy humor and ridiculous moments to fill a circus tent. I was pleasantly surprised by this movie and may even add it to my collection one day. From what I can see the special features are even entertaining, involving a fun and informative commentary, gag reel and a short making-of featurette. This movie has given me a renewed interest in clown scares, and I look forward to what the likes of McHahon and Noble have in store for us in the future.