out of Five
Running time: 86
As horror comedies go, Stitches gets the gore-to-laughs ratio exactly right and is often both inventive and side-splittingly funny, but it's also slightly let down by dodgy dialogue, poor performances and lacklustre direction.
What's it all about?
Directed by Conor McMahon, Stitches stars comedian Ross Noble (making his acting debut) as Richard 'Stitches' Grindle, a permanently grumpy clown who's accidentally killed at a 10th birthday party while being tormented by the assembled children. Six years later, Stitches returns from the dead and wreaks gory revenge on the teenagers responsible, picking them off one by one at the birthday bash of understandably clown-phobic 16 year old Tommy (Tommy Knight), whose 10th birthday party led to Stitches' untimely demise in the first place.
Ross Noble acquits himself nicely as Stitches (although the persona is so blatantly ripped off from Psychoville's Mr Jelly that they might as well have given him the same name), wisely confining his performance to grumpy muttering and the odd one-liner rather than attempting anything too ambitious or flamboyant.
McMahon gets the balance between gore and laughs exactly right and all the kills are genuinely hilarious, with each one cleverly imitating the party trick that the teenager ridiculed as a child (e.g. one victim gets his intestines twisted into balloon animal shapes). The special effects are extremely good too, with McMahon relying on old fashioned prosthetics rather than resorting to CGI, the notable exception being a very funny gag involving a cat and Stitches' victim-seeking red nose.
That said, though the gory set-pieces deliver big laughs, the rest of the film is slightly let down by poor performances from the various teenagers (Gemma-Leah Devereux's female lead and Roisin Barron's bitchy Sarah are the notable exceptions) and some distinctly dodgy dialogue, not to mention a criminal lack of comic timing in the delivery, as if the director just handed the actors their lines seconds before the cameras started rolling.
In addition, whenever Stitches isn't killing anyone (or riding around on his tiny tricycle – a brilliant sight gag), the film is extremely uneven, not least in the detail surrounding the ritual that brings him back to life in the first place.
Despite some terrible teenage acting and some dreadful dialogue, Stitches earns a pass thanks to the expert deployment of some pleasingly inventive gore effects and the simple virtue of being very, very funny. See it in a cinema with an appropriately fired-up Friday night crowd.