Coulrophobia [kool-ruh-foh-bee-uh] (noun): an abnormal fear of clowns.
What exactly is it about clowns that causes so much fear among so many people? I have never understood it, personally. To me, the clown has always been nothing more than a jolly, if admittedly slightly sinister, entertainer. With their oversized trousers and shoes, mad hair and garish colours, surely there is nothing to fear from these well-intentioned characters?
Enter IT‘s Pennywise, the Killer Klowns From Outer Space and Psychoville’s Mr Jelly. Ah. Now, these, among others, might go some way to explaining it.
Which brings us onto Richard “Stitches” Grindle, the clown of Conor McMahon’s Stitches.
Before I get onto him, let me just say that I really, really enjoyed Stitches. It’s very much a slasher film (bonus points), which features inventive deaths (bonus), bags of laughs and a great antagonist with an appetite for dealing out death in increasingly absurd ways. Stitches epitomises feel good, riotous horror film-making.
The story is simple. While performing at a birthday party filled with particularly unruly group of “little bast’ids”, world-weary clown Stitches finds his eyeball impaled on the business end of a rather large kitchen knife, which plunges deep into his skull.
It’s at this point that I ask you to suspend your disbelief.
As we all know, a clown can NEVER leave a party unfinished and so, six years later, birthday boy Tom (Tommy Knight) and his friends have all grown up and are, typically only interested in partying, drinking and fornicating. Except Tom, who has been left with a pretty unhealthy distrust of clowns as he spends every night peering at the graveyard, awaiting the inevitable return of Stitches…and return he does!
When Tom’s mother leaves him alone on his birthday, his friends Richie and Bulger convince him to throw a party, which the titular clown duly attends without invite, to exact his revenge on the kids that killed him.
McMahon’s story looks silly when written down like that and, to be honest, it’s a little bit silly when you see it on the screen, however, the thing about Stitches is that it’s so much fun that no-one really cares how silly it is.
The cast all do a great job. Tommy Knight plays the role of Tom well, while looking a bit like the bastard offspring of Jimmy Carr, while Gemma-Leah Devereaux does a great job as his love interest, Kate.
It’s comedian Ross Noble who steals the show. Noble infuses the role of the killer clown with a real, dry grumpiness that only makes his one liners all the more hilarious.
I’m pleased to say that Stitches also plays host to some of the most ludicrous death scenes ever committed to film. Remember, Stitches IS a clown and he makes full use of the props at his disposal as he dishes up the death. Heads are sent flying and brains are scooped out before the clown sees off a character with an umbrella in a scene that had the collected masses at Frightfest applauding loudly.
So, if you hate clowns, then this film will only serve to reinforce your hatred. However, if you are, like me, un-phased by these bumbling characters and are, similarly, mad about slasher movies, then you may find Stitches to be an unexpected treat. Some minor technical issues aside, including some ropey CGI, Stitches is silly, gory fun and an excellent, unchallenging way to pass 90 minutes.
Check it out. You will leave smiling.