I've been watching horror films all of my life and I think I can safely say that I know great films when I see them. Sometimes, it's just a matter of tiny details that keep those films from getting a perfect score. A bad decision here or a terrible camera angle there. Make no mistake, though...these particular films are great. Films that go on to become cult classics and legendary works of art. Then, there are films like Stitches.
I won't say that Stitches is a bad film. It certainly has its moments. But, it is pretty goddamn far from great. Still, when you are writing a film review regarding a clown that comes back from the dead to exact a convoluted revenge on a bunch of bratty UK kids, it's really hard to be serious about the whole affair. I mean...early on in the film, towards the beginning, there's a clown driving a tiny car with his clown shoes. So, you really have to take the film at face value. To say that there is nothing cerebral going on here is a sore understatement. But, it never claims to be anything more than the sum of its parts.
I really did do my best to watch the film under these particular pretenses. I tried to let the film swallow me into its dumb comedic belly. I honestly tried to be fully entertained by Stitches. But, seriously...depth and character development go a long way. And when a film and its writers purposely forgo all of that important stuff for just having a fun time shooting a movie about a killer clown, it's tough to fully immerse yourself into the hollow silliness of it all.
The film literally opens on a clown named "Stitches" railing some...clown groupie (??) in an RV...on the edge of a cliff. Probably a forgettable scene if it were not for the fact that it reveals a snippet of crucial information pertinent to the entire plot. The clown groupie (??) comes across an egg with clown make-up on it enclosed in a glass tube and inquires of its significance. "Stitches" reveals that it was some sort of initiation thing that "they" made him do when he signed up to be a clown. It's this kind of thing that makes the entire film frustrating. Tiny bits of revelations here and there told in amateurish ways...rather than true solid storytelling. It makes the entire thing feel like one of those late-night skin flicks you see on cable. Except without the fleshy payoffs.
Anyway, our clown rushes off to some kid's birthday party and perishes in a very stupid way. It's one of those deaths that just doesn't make any kind of sense and comes off completely idiotic. I did enjoy the blood spraying all over the little kid's face, tho. It made me chuckle to myself...only because I often find stuff like that funny. In fact, the film is peppered with little bits of personal funnies like this particular scene. It helps that Ross Noble, British comedian, was cast in the titular role. He displays a very matter-of-fact hilarity that pretty much keeps the entire film going. You can tell that he genuinely had fun with the role and if it were not for him...this film would have been a complete waste of time. Instead, it is a tolerable...often irritating, sometimes charming, forgettable little film.
There's just not enough of the titular character doing his thing here. There's a stretch where he's not even in the film....which kinda sucks because most of the bratty UK kids in the film are pretty unlikeable. And then...when he does finally shows up, it's mostly of the stalking variety. Where he's just lurking around...offing the kids that (sorta) made him get dead in the first place. The film never really finds its place, as far as a revenge story goes. Because the first death scene comes across completely half-assed and forced, it feels more like a slight towards the main clown character's intelligence more than anything. The first act just never gives "Stitches" the credence he deserves in order to create a revenge vehicle you can really get behind. It just ends up feeling like someone never really gave a fuck about script depth. Even the finale is cheap and uninspired. It's really just a shame...because, had the film been given some sense of purpose...even just a shred. It might've been something really cool. Instead, it's just one of those films that you keep on in the background while you're surfing the internets for animal porn. Not that I do that sort of thing, mind you.
The gore is pretty goddamn awesome, tho. I'll give it that. Considering how the budget for this flick probably didn't break anyone's bank, the practical SFX is pretty tight and inventive for what it is. And most of it is shot really nicely...often better than most of the fim itself. Which is refreshing in a sea of films that rely too much on CGI. Even tho, there is some spotty CGI in the film that suckens things up a little. Also, with the exception of one literal nip-slip, there's no exploitative nudity to be had here. You'd think that in a campy horror film involving high school coeds and clowns that there would be more flesh on display here. Sadly....no.
Stitches isn't a bad film. Trust me...you can certainly do much worse. It may even find its audience somewhere. But, when you compare it to something like Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, for instance...it ends up just being another unfortunate miss rather than a hell of a hit. While it does have quite a bit of potential in several places, it ultimately never strives to be anything more than what it is. I'd probably recommend it for the hardcore clown movie gorehounds.
Oh...did I mention Lorna Dempsey? No? My bad. She's in the film and she's kind of my new crush.
Thanks for reading,