In time for Halloween, OLLIE BARLETT was sent to review Ross Noble’s film debut as a clown hell-bent on revenge.

Clown clowns Conor McMahon evil clown Gemma-Leah Devereux genital balloons ross noble Stitches Tommy Knight

Why are clowns scary?  Is it something to do with the fixed grins, the forced levity or the entirely justified fear that they might use our intestines to make gristly balloon animals?

Stitches is the new low-budget horror-comedy from director Conor McMahon (other works include Dead Meat and Zombie Bashers).  Ross Noble makes his movie debut here as Richard “Stitches” Grindle, a children’s entertainer with a scummy appearance to compliment his diseased soul.

The film opens with a birthday party for young Tom and an assortment of unruly brats, where a disastrous magic set and a carelessly loaded dishwasher combine in a fatal mishap.  Then, six years later, we’re reintroduced to those brats as teens so we can learn to despise them anew.  Tom’s friends finally manage to convince him to throw another party to help him loosen up, but Stitches soon returns from the grave to wreak bloody revenge on the kids that killed him.

Stitches manages to exploit the evil clown premise well, even while employing other horror clichés with no innovation (generic ghoulish rituals, obnoxious bully in a monster costume, no-one thinks to call the police, you get the idea).  Indeed, the killer is more than just a seemingly invulnerable psychopath in a costume, as he also possesses an array of supernaturally enhanced clown tricks to help him slay his victims in ways reminiscent of their roles in his untimely demise.

Lead teens Tommy Knight and Gemma-Leah Devereux (looking uncannily like a young David Morrissey and Selma Blair) are perfectly functional protagonists, but Noble steals the show as the eponymous clown.  The film seems rushed towards the end as the surviving heroes endeavour to undo the necromantic magic keeping Stitches alive – there were still several more irritating teens left who could have been dispatched in suitably creative ways.  However, the film didn’t outstay its welcome or bore me at any point, so I suppose that’s a backhanded compliment of sorts.

The effects were quite ropey in places, and the film could have benefitted from better editing to make some of the transitions a bit smoother.  But, for the most part, any shortcomings were well hidden under buckets of blood and offal, with enough humour to ensure it entertains as much as it disgusts (unlike the appalling Saw films and their lazy, derivative offspring).

While not a flawless film, Stitches is an enjoyable piece of schlock just in time for Halloween. Moreover, you probably won’t see someone getting their genitals ripped off and tied to a helium balloon in any other competing haunted house flick or horror sequel out this month.

To conclude, while this is not recommended for coulrophobes or anyone with a weak stomach, fans of Ross Noble and B-movie gorefests should find something here to their liking.