Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Cinema File #131: "Stitches" Review

I shouldn't have to say anymore about this movie other than "it has a killer zombie clown in it", as that should be enough to make you want to see it, but since that wouldn't make for much of a review, let me tell you about all the stuff I loved about the new Irish horror film Stitches.

Stitches is the story of the titular clown, felled by an ill-placed knife at a bratty kid's birthday party, who rises from the dead many years later to get revenge on all the now teenaged kids who inadvertently caused his death. If this movie doesn't win you over in the first ten minutes, then its not for you, but if like me you're sold by the first blade to the eye (or at least the second, which comes in rapid succession), then chances are you will love the crap out of this movie. The anarchic tone and delightfully vulgar Irish sensibility established from the very beginning carries through to the end, making what would otherwise have been a cliched supernatural slasher right out of the 90's into something truly enjoyable from start to finish.

The cast of teenage victims are given just enough backstory to make them interesting without going over the top, and at no point does the film get bogged down in pointless exposition, or go too fast that you can't buy into the premise and become engaged with the world of the movie. I loved the little details thrown in to add legitimacy to what is at heart such a ridiculous concept, that there is a secret order of clowns with totems and death rituals capable of bringing those in their society wrongly killed back to life to exact justice. Its just enough to set up what you know is coming, which is paid off beautifully in a party that devolves into non-stop bloody carnage at about the 45 minute mark and never lets up until the end.

Ross Noble, evidently a British stand up in his first feature film role, is instantly lovable as the crude clown turned sadistic killer, easily the first wise-cracking slasher villain I've liked in quite a long time. It probably sounds like a strange compliment, but once the film gets to the various death scenes, the feeling it evoked for me that I very much appreciated was that of some of the later Nightmare On Elm Street movies. While I always loved those later movies for their introduction of fantasy and surrealism into that universe, many die hard fans decried the more jokey cartoonish nature of them, but here, since you're already prepared for that, it works so well.

The deaths themselves are masterfully done and the best execution of this concept that I could have hoped for. Even on a relatively low budget, they look amazing and creatively exploit the premise of a killer supernatural clown better than I was expecting, if only because most movies tend to get their crazy killer concept out of the way and just give him a knife and set him loose. The clown's previously established repertoire of tricks and gags are re-purposed as methods of execution, including among many others a coin behind the ear trick that takes the ear along with it, and a balloon animal made out of a victim's own intestines. And what he does with his trick umbrella is simply inspired.

Stitches comes together so well and is probably tied with Redd Inc as my favorite horror comedy of 2012, which much like that film understands its audience and knows exactly where to take its story to please them. I was immensely satisfied, and any horror fan interested in a nostalgically goofy slasher should find more than enough to love.
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