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Friday, April 5, 2013

At the Stitches Premiere

Conor McMahon, Tommy Knight, Simon Barrett
Conor McMahon, Tommy Knight and moderator Simon Barrett
On April Fools night, I attended the American premiere of Stitches, an Irish horror spoof starring Ross Noble, an English comedian who has yet to be well-known in the States, but this film may help to start opening doors in America for him.

Noble wasn't present at the screening, but the film's director/co-writer, Conor McMahon (Dead Meat), and its young star, Tommy Knight, were. Also walking the red carpet at Cinespace in Hollywood were such genre notables as Danielle Harris (Halloween 4. Hatchet III), Bai Ling (The Crow) and — for you Angelenos out there — local broadcasting legend Shadoe Stevens. There were circus performers and malevolent clowns, in keeping with the film's theme, and they gave the affair a fun, twisted circus atmosphere.

Bai Ling at Stitches premiere
Bai Ling
The attendees, jacked up on popcorn and cotton candy, were ready to get into some serious gore, and they were amply rewarded with McMahon's tribute to the halcyon days of the slasher movie.

The director knows his stuff when it comes to spoofing the genre. Stitches' characters are almost all two-dimensional and obnoxious. We get the stereotypical fat kid, the slut, the jock, the bully, and so on. The murders are extremely violent, hilariously drawn-out and lovingly rendered with the old-school techniques of latex and gallons of fake blood rather than CGI.
Danielle Harris

The plot is stripped to the basics. Noble's Stitches is a drunken, burned-out clown on his last leg. Dragging himself to yet another kid's birthday party, he wearily goes through his bag of tricks but the little bastards just jeer and throw things at him. One of them sneaks up behind him and ties his shoelaces together, causing him to trip, fall face first into a dishwasher and impale himself on a butcher knife. Result: dead clown.

Six years later, the birthday boy, Tommy (Knight), now a nerdy adolescent still traumatized by the memory of Stitches' death, is getting ready to celebrate his 16th birthday with a few friends, but word about the party gets out on the social networks and soon everyone, including the kids who attended the fatal fete six years before, are crashing.

An erstwhile invitation is carried by the wind to the grave where Stitches has been buried (in a cemetery conveniently located next to Tommy's house), and of course he considers himself invited, rising from the dead to wreak his revenge. And what a revenge! This film is all about the killings, and they're hilariously over-the-top and lingering.

Ross Noble as StitchesA couple of examples: the fat kid, who'd been hiding in the pantry gorging himself on cans of fruit, gets his head opened with the can opener and his brains scooped out by Stitches. In a final shot, the kid's lifeless body is sprawled across him in a nasty recreation of Michelangelo's Pieta. Another kid, who'd insulted Stitches' balloon animal sculpting technique at the first party, gets his intestines yanked out by the killer clown who then proceeds to twist them into the shape of a doggie.

Noble's take on the character is refreshing. Unlike the manic Freddy Krueger, he's more fatigued than frightening, given to groaning "For fuck's sake" when he has to chase down a victim. And when Tommy and his girlfriend attempt to make their getaway on bikes, he frnatically pedals after them on a tiny tricycle. It's a riotous visual.

Stitches Pieta scene
Stitches has Halloween-style pop-up scares and Nightmare on Elm Street-inspired wisecracks, but unlike the Elm Street series, which uneasily balanced camp and horror as the sequels droned on, this film is completely clear in its direction. This attitude, along with the extreme gore, makes it more reminiscent of Peter Jackson's early splatter comedies like Dead Alive.

McMahon makes the most of his modest budget, providing some nice atmopshere but of course saving the bulk of his resources for the all-important gore effects.

Stitches is rated R with a running time of 86 minutes. It's available on DVD and on demand on select cable services.

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