“You’ll Die Laughing”
Director: Conor McMahon
Cast: Ross Noble, Toomy Knight, Eoghan McQuinn
Synopsis: A clown comes back from the dead to haunt those who took his life during a fatal party mishap.
Some people are creeped out by clowns, so it’s hardly a surprise that moviemakers have used them as a convenient bogeyman in horror movies for the past few decades. One of the latest movies to contribute to this trend is the low-budget Irish comedy-horror Stitches, which employs the services of comedian Ross Noble. He makes a suitably seedy clown, even before he returns from the grave to slaughter the kids whose prank resulted in his accidental death, but Stitches the movie is a decidedly uneven affair which is too often hamstrung by weak material to be considered a success.
Stitches is a clown who seems particularly unsuited to his chosen career. He’s dirty, slovenly, and appears to have no chemistry whatsoever with the young kids for whose party he turns up late. In fact, these kids are so unimpressed with Stitches that one of them ties the clown’s shoelaces together, a prank which unfortunately results in Stitches diving headlong into the business end of a carving knife carelessly left pointy-bit up in an open dishwasher. Fast-forward six years and those kids are now a bunch of spotty, obnoxious teens with sex and booze on their minds. Tom (Tommy Knight) however, is a little different from his peers. It was at Tommy’s party that Stitches met his fate, and the poor kid keeps suffering gory illusions in which he sees his mates being eviscerated by teachers-turned-clowns.
In the real world, that would make Tom someone from whom you’d want to keep your distance, but when his mates discover Tom’s mum is going away for the weekend leaving him home alone, they more or less bully him into holding a party. Unfortunately, one of the invitations Tom prints is carried through his open bedroom window on a gust of wind that carries it to the graveyard next to his house. And, more specifically, to the grave in which Stitches has lain at peace for the past six years. For some reason, this is enough to resurrect the sleazy clown, who decides he has a few old scores to settle with those kids-turned-teens.
Stitches is a movie that belongs to the ‘wouldn’t it be cool if…’ school of filmmaking. Wouldn’t it be cool if we made a horror movie in which the antagonist is a seedy clown with crusted face paint and fly-away hair? Wouldn’t it be cool if we had him pump some guys head up until it explodes? Wouldn’t it be cool if we had him making balloon animals out of a victim’s intestines? Wouldn’t it be cool if we had him scoop the brains out of the head of another of his victims? And, yeah, it probably is cool for an audience approximately the same age as the kids in this movie. Cool and funny, which is the other objective writer & director Conor McMahon and his co-writer David O’Brien were aiming for. Well, while both of those things are largely subjective, it’s fair to say most people over the age of 25 who have felt the weight of adult responsibility upon their shoulders will look upon Stitches with at best a patient tolerance. Because like most teenagers, it isn’t anywhere near as cool as it likes to think it is…
There are a few mildly humorous — and almost clever — moments of wit between a glut of crap one-liners, but they’re few and far between, and although the effects are pretty good for such a low-budget movie, the moments of gore are laid on a little too thick. Horror works best when its rooted in reality and when the acts of violence upon a story’s victims are physically possible, but having Stitches pull rabbits from a hapless teen’s mouth or peel open the top of his skull with a tin opener just give the entire thing a feeling of cartoonish excess but without the crucial ingredient of genuine laughs that it needs to be successful.