“-But know this. A clown who doesn’t finish his party act can never rest, and a joke is never as funny the second time round.”
I decided that I would celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day by reviewing a seasonally appropriate horror movie that isn’t an installation of the Leprechaun franchise. So today I will be talking about my all time favorite movie from the Irish Film Board, Stitches. (Give me a break guys, I only had Netflix & Hulu movies to choose from today – and Irish Horror is sadly limited.)
Spoiler warning: Although I can’t imagine people being particularly upset to have this movie spoiled for them, that’s something that could happen if you haven’t seen it and continue reading this review.
There were parts I really hated. More surprisingly, there were parts that I loved. So where do I stand on Stitches? Well, I’ve now re-watched this film more times than a healthy, normal person would watch it in total (which ranges anywhere from 0-1 time) and I have to say, it’s still really entertaining. It’s not good, but it doesn’t really have to be, and I don’t think it tried to be.
This movie didn’t take itself seriously, and if you don’t take it seriously either, then it’s just some campy, horror movie fun – which in its own way makes it more entertaining than if they had tried harder. Considering the outlandish premise… I really don’t think they would have succeeded in trying to make this a genuinely frightening movie.
Speaking of the premise; that’s actually my favorite part of the movie by a long shot. A clown dies at a kids birthday party in a dishwasher related accident, and then comes back from the dead years later to kill the children that he blames for the incident. It’s so much more than that though. The movie goes onto imply that not only does an egg give Stitches his evil powers of resurgence, but that this comes from an ancient clown ritual in which he took part.
“When a person becomes a clown, they have to paint their face on an egg. They call it the spiritus singularum, the uniqueness of spirit. Nobody knows where the tradition comes from, but it’s been around for as long as the clowns have.”
Before I talk too much more about the things that amuse me in this movie, let’s go ahead and knock the bad stuff out of the way. There were three things that I didn’t like about the film, and they are as follows:
- The cat dies (a horror trope that for the record, I’m very against.)
- I never needed to hear the sentence “fuck me, clown.”
- Poor parenting. I know that this is another staple of the genre, but Tom’s mother goes above and beyond. She hires a terrible, shady looking clown for her son’s birthday party, leaves him unattended with the children. She’s nowhere to be found while the clown pulls a knife out of his head. Rather than moving to a new home or getting her son proper care we find out she’s still just throwing anti-anxiety pills at the problem, and she leaves her only child alone in the house over the weekend which is not only the anniversary of something traumatic happening in his childhood, but also his birthday. And when Tom sees the present she got him his reaction is “not the same shitty bike again.” This implies that she’s gotten him this same bike multiple times – which is the icing on this cake of neglect.
But let’s talk about the things that I did like, which for this movie turns out to be just as laughable as the things that I disliked.
Due to the stress of the upcoming anniversary (or possibly as a result of the anti-anxiety medication he’s been taking) Tom begins seeing things that aren’t there. This leads to
- A clown-face breakfast that is one of the most beautiful shots of the film.
- A scene where Tom’s best friend, Vinny, has his penis ripped off by their teacher-turned-clown, and then chases it down after it’s attached to a balloon.
I don’t think I’ve seen a movie pull of so many deaths this ridiculous since the A Nightmare on Elmstreet franchise. If plausibility weren’t already so far out the window, some of these would have been really infuriating, but in context I found them to be quite enjoyable.
I think the best scene was when Tom and Kate run to the graveyard. Thanks to Tom’s mother re-buying him the same bike he already has, they both have methods of transportation. Stitches however, has to chase them on a tricycle, since that’s all that’s left.
When he finally realizes that this is less practical than walking, he picks the bike up to carry with him.
Just because a movie is bad, doesn’t mean that the writing is bad. In fact, the writing for this movie is surprisingly intelligent given the whole concept of the film. The characters each have consistent personalities, the plot cycles back around to tie up loose ends, there’s foreshadowing – and even the incredibly awkward dialogue comes across less like poor writing, and more like elegantly orchestrated writing that like to masquerade as bad.
An instance of this dialogue would be the following:
“Speaking of jobs, I do hear you’re more partial to blow jobs. Yeah. How else would you have acquired the name… Blowjob Kate?”
In combination with the delivery, I just have to believe that the redundant phrasing and complete lack of imagination when choosing a harmful nickname for Kate, must have been intentional. – and on a genius level, mind you.
And, as I mentioned up above, they really do cycle back around to everything. The tricks that Stitches uses at the first party are the inspiration for the way he kills his victims. Tying his shoelaces together (which was the event that lead to his accident) is how they’re able to defeat him. There is one example of this cyclical writing structure that really stood out to me.
When setting up the party, Tom is unable to open a jar of dip. His friend shows him he was turning the lid the wrong way and teaches him “righty tighty, lefty loosey.”
Later, in a moment of life or death, Tommy has to open the container that stores the Spiritus Singularum egg and struggles with it. But then we actually get to him think back to the dip earlier, repeat the phrase he learned, and open the jar in what has to be one of the most glorious, ridiculous movie moments of all time.
For anyone who was on the fence about whether this was a colossal disaster as a horror movie or a thriving success as a horror comedy emanating the style of a B-movie, there were the credits, which rolled bloopers from the film over to the side. This reassures the audience that Stitches knows and acknowledges what sort of thing this is.