Growing up, I’ve never been afraid of clowns. My parents took me to the circus and to carnivals plenty of times without incident- and most of the circus-themed rooms/attractions at haunted houses or Halloween events like New England’s “Spooky World” have done little more than get me to laugh at some of my other friends who are terrified of them (which is making this season of ‘American Horror Story’ particularly enjoyable to watch with them.)
I digress. Despite the likes of Insane Clown Posse being comically terrible and John Wayne Gacy’s overall creep-factor- with and without makeup- clowns just don’t freak me out, but Netflix is loaded with crazy, murderous clown movies. Up until now, I’ve managed to skip over them- but the poster for “Stitches” (and it’s terrible rating,) caught my eye and I felt compelled to give it a shot.
The synopsis, from Netflix:
“After his accidental death, Stitches the criminally insane clown is on the loose and hunting down the young partygoers who caused his untimely demise.”
Right away, I wondered how a group of kids accidentally killed a guy in clown makeup, and from there- I only fell further into the rabbit hole.
As usual, full-spoilers lay ahead. If you don’t want to know what happens in this movie (for whatever reason,) DO NOT CLICK “CONTINUE READING.” YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.
I can’t remember the last time I watched a horror movie that began, right off the bat, with a gratuitous sex scene- but here we are. A guy in clown makeup, who I’m assuming is Stitches, is humping what appears to be a prostitute (I only say this because she refers to him as “clown” and not by an actual name,) while she asks about some painted egg he has in a display case in his tiny mobile home.
A horn beeps outside, and Stitches stops what he’s doing, remarking that he’s late for some kid’s birthday party. I would like to point out that this movie was filmed in Ireland, and some of the accents are heavy- so at times I had to turn the subtitles on just to make sure I could understand what was being said.
Anyway, the kid in question is Tommy- who is turning ten- and he and his friends are actually quite adorable as they marvel at the birthday cake (one kid marveling at Tommy’s mom’s low cut top, instead,) run around and beat the shit out of each other like most ten year olds do. Stitches arrives in a beat-up clown mobile and nearly runs the gathering children over in the driveway before he makes his entrance- insulting Tommy’s mom and demanding cash upfront.
The performance for the kids goes as disastrous as expected, with the kids heckling Stitches throughout his attempts at dated jokes and tricks. I admittedly laughed when one of the kids, who couldn’t have been older than eight- calls him an “asshole” and another little girl, around the same age- flips him the bird.
While Stitches is distracted as he attempts to juggle, one of the kids ties his shoelaces together. Tommy, at his friends’ urging, throws a soccer ball at the clown- who loses his footing and is unable to keep his balance- falling face first onto the carving knife his mother had used for the cake and had conveniently left out, in the dishwasher, blade facing upwards- because we needed a plausible reason for the clown to get killed at the hands of a group of children.
Except Stitches doesn’t die right away. The knife has gone into his eye and up through his skull, but he’s still able to stand- eye Tommy menacingly while the other kids run away (what about the kid who tied his shoelaces together? Is he just going to get away with that?) and pull the knife out- resulting in an excessive amount of blood spraying all over the boy’s face. It looks as though Stitches is going to shank Tommy with the knife, until his oversized clown shoe slips in the blood accumulating on the floor and his falls backwards- the knife landing in the same exact spot in the same exact eye. It’s at this point I realized two things:
1. Irish filmmakers have balls of steel when casting children in movies, and;
2. This is probably a horror-comedy film, but I’ve already dedicated myself to seeing it through- so here we go.
Tommy miraculously doesn’t need years of therapy after watching a grown man pull a knife from his own face and consequently bleeding all over him, and decides to visit Stitches’ grave- visible from his house for a reason I don’t understand- to pay his respects in the middle of the night shortly after the funeral. While there, Tommy spots a handful of clowns making their way from the burial site and does some snooping. Turns out, they are members of a clown cult, and their leader looks a lot of Paul Giamatti.
Tommy is discovered, and given the ominous warning that he’s pretty much screwed because Stitches will come back and have his revenge.
Fast-forward a few years. The kids have grown and Tommy’s on anti-anxiety medication to help him with images of clowns that continually haunt him. He’s still close with a couple of friends from the worst birthday party ever- but a couple of others have since become assholes. During class, Tommy mentions to one friend that his mother is going away for the weekend on a business trip and invites him over to have a couple of beers- which quickly escalates into a couple of other kids sitting around him and eavesdropping suggesting he have a party.
Without warning, Tommy hallucinates that the teacher is suddenly a murderous clown who proceeds to rip off his friend’s penis and make a balloon animal out of it. Yeah- that caught me off guard, too.
During a gym class later on, it’s revealed that Tommy’s birthday falls during the same weekend his mother is going away- only encouraging his friends to throw a huge party in her absence, with or without Tommy’s consent. Tommy eventually agrees to have a small get together, even typing up invitations to pass out, but one of his friends, Vinny- does what usually happens when underaged kids are faced with the possibility of being unsupervised in someone else’s home for a couple of days. He creates an event on Facebook- er- ‘My Face,’ and invites everyone in the school.
It should be noted that Tommy has a crush on one of the girls who attended his birthday party earlier on in the film, Kate, but probably due to having a clown die in front of them all at such a tender age- has been nervous to talk to her ever since. Even still, he musters up the courage to invite her- even extending the invitation to whatever friends she wants to bring. Later that night, one of the paper invitations Tommy had typed up for what he assumed would be a small get together gets blown out of Vinny’s bedroom window by a gust of wind and carried to Stitches’ grave marker. Why does everyone live SO CLOSE to this cemetery?
After stocking up on chips, beer, and decorative Christmas lights- Tommy’s get together begins and quickly escalates into the stereotypical, overcrowded movie party with plenty of drinking, drugs, and hormonal teenagers ogling each other. While all of this is happening, Stitches has returned from the dead, crawling out of his grave- still in his clown costume- and makes his way to Tommy’s house.
Kate arrives, with the guy she’s sort of seeing, who acts like a Prick to Tommy. Kate is thankfully sympathetic and defensive of her friend, and it looks like there might be a moment between them when two of their former friends show up- one dressed as a clown- and proceeds to scare the shit out of Tommy, who cuts his head open in the process of trying to get away. The two are promptly told to leave by pretty much everyone- and while this is happening- the real Stitches is making his way inside.
Tommy is embarrassed at his freak-out and takes refuge in his childhood tree house. Kate follows, and the two begin discussing the events of Tommy’s 10th birthday party and his witnessing a clown cult ritual following Stitches’ burial. From there, he further solidifies his never getting a date with Kate by showing her his extensive research into clowns and clown cults- because there’s nothing weird about that at all, right?
Meanwhile, Stitches gets to work on ambushing and murdering Tommy’s friends, the ones who were present at his 10th birthday party- one by one and in the most cheesy, over-the-top, clown-related ways. It’s a spectacular display of fake blood and prosthetics ordered from the internet. Of course, despite the house being PACKED with people- nobody notices a grown man missing an eye in a dirty and disheveled clown suit murdering people who are screaming for help. At one point, one of Tommy’s friends repeated cries are drowned out by everyone in the party singing along to Cutting Crew’s ‘I Just Died in Your Arms.’ You mean they got the rights to use that song in this movie? Really?
Tommy spots Stitches from the safety of his tree house and runs back into the party to round up his (former) friends. At this point, three of them have already been offed- as has Tommy’s cat, unnecessarily. Each death is accompanied by a one-liner from Stitches- which is infinitely more interesting than the act he performed prior to death.
Most of the party write off Tommy’s urgency in everyone leaving as him going crazy. Even Kate isn’t convinced- but when Vinny stumbles on some bodies- he agrees to help Tommy get everyone with a target on their backs together to escape safely as a group. Both guys fail to realize that themselves, and Kate- are the only three left.
When Stitches eventually reveals himself to the rest of the party, it doesn’t take long for them to clear out of Tommy’s house. Kate is injured in the process, and when Tommy comes to her aid- Vinny bails on them both. Damn it, Vinny.
Stitches inevitably gets the upper hand on Tommy, who buys some time by squirting dish soap in the clown’s mouth (seriously,) until Kate picks up a carving knife that was just sort of laying around- a continued convenience in Tommy’s household, it seems- and throws it, with perfect precision- into Stitches’ eye, or what’s left of it. Either way- she hits him right in the spot that killed him the first time around.
There’s some bizarre theme about clowns and eggs and yeah- I have no idea- but regardless, Tommy and Kate speed off on bikes to the graveyard (which shouldn’t take long considering everyone lives within walking distance of the damned thing,) while Stitches recovers and begins his pursuit on a tricycle. I cackled at this part. I’m not even going to deny it.
At the cemetery, Tommy and Kate are making their way to where Tommy had seen Paul Giamatti and his clown crew all those years ago when Stitches arrives. The two hide behind a rather large headstone, and when Tommy gets a case of nervous hiccups- Kate kisses him to get him to stop before they’re discovered. It works, somehow- and they proceed to the… Clown… Tomb… Thing. While Kate stands guard outside, Tommy goes in to smash the egg that is supposed to represent Stitches?
Rather than just smash ALL the eggs and prevent future murderous clowns from preying on unsuspecting children, Tommy takes the time to seek out Stitches’ egg- but since Kate is a terrible guard- the two are quickly caught. Outside, as Stitches is debating on which one of them to kill first- Vinny comes to the rescue, crawling up behind the clown and once again tying his shoelaces together. The movie has come full circle, you guys.
Stitches naturally loses his balance, falls on his egg, and shatters it- which in turn causes him to explode, you know- like an egg. I’m still missing the connection between clowns and eggs here, but oh well. I’m just rolling with it.
Six months later, Tommy’s house is up for sale and he and Kate are happily dating. Elsewhere, Paul Giamatti clown is painstakingly putting back together the pieces of Stitches’ egg to presumably bring him back to life. Again.
And that’s it. That’s the end.
Obviously, this movie ended up being more of a comedy than an actual horror film- and some parts were genuinely funny- but once again, the film as a whole falls short of being worth a second viewing or worth a recommendation to friends. One-liners and little kids swearing is only funny for so long. After that, I want a horror movie that delivers good scares. ‘Stitches’ couldn’t do that.
And I’m still not afraid of clowns.