Stitches doesn’t know whether it wants to be scary, funny or cheesy, and as a result it’s none of the above, falling far short of even unintentional comedy.
Professional clowns have been up in arms lately over the growing buzz surrounding the cinematic revival of Stephen King’s It and resurrection of its nightmarish killer clown Pennywise. King himself has chimed in, sympathizing with any negative effect on their grease-painted livelihood but claiming that kids have always feared clowns. Our collective, long-standing coulrophobia probably wasn’t helped by the recent spate of people dressing in evil clown costumes and lurking around wooded areas throughout the country. (Hysteria surrounding the phenomenon reached such a fever pitch that “2016 clown sightings” even has its own Wikipedia page.) But don’t worry, kids, there’s nothing to fear in 2012’s hapless Stitches, which, despite spurts of over-the-top gore, basically operates as a mind-numbing teen drama that incidentally also includes a killer clown.
Stitches’ titular clown (British “randomist” stand-up comedian Ross Noble) was once just your average balloon-twisting stiff thanklessly working the birthday party circuit. Okay, okay, first he was initiated into the red-nosed brotherhood through some sort of occult-ritual that included painting his own likeness onto a demonic decorative egg, but the kids he’s attempting to entertain don’t know that. If they did, they probably wouldn’t mess with him by tying his shoelaces together, causing a man nimble enough to make a career out of navigating in floppy shoes to nevertheless awkwardly stumble into the kitchen and impale his eyeball on a butcher knife. With the clumsy party clown dead and buried—presumably driven to the graveyard in a hearse from which pallbearers pulled an endless stream of caskets—six largely PTSD-free years pass for the children.
But then there’s another birthday party, this time of the unsupervised high-school-blowout variety. Birthday boy Tommy (Ryan Burke) begins having horrifying visions of Stitches returning from the grave, which is exactly what the demon clown does, even though he ends up spending an inordinate amount of time offscreen so teen romance and melodrama can ensue. Once Stitches finally begins his killing spree, he does so by incorporating his old act into the mix, inflating heads like balloons, pulling rabbits out of throats, twisting disemboweled intestines into balloon animals and digging out brains with an ice cream scoop. That sounds kinda fun, right? It isn’t. Each kill is performed so artlessly that Stitches’ corresponding hammy puns (“He had to head off!” following a decapitation, for instance) and pointless catchphrases (“Everybody happy?”) fail to meet even the low bar for b-movie camp.
Stitches doesn’t know whether it wants to be scary, funny or cheesy, and as a result it’s none of the above, falling far short of even unintentional comedy. Padding its runtime with vapid teen drama, Stitches can’t even do a basic job of building tension by having its killer clown lurk in the shadows for a while; he’s too busy hissing and mugging for the camera. It’s difficult to sap all the joy from a killer clown spectacle, but Stitches manages to do just that. If you want camp, watch Killer Klowns from Outer Space again; if you want an unnerving new take on the trope, check out 2014’s Clown; if you want a vintage dose of evil clown, wait for the It remake or revisit Tim Curry’s TV-miniseries incarnation of Pennywise. There’s not a seltzer bottle’s chance in hell of finding anything worthwhile in Stitches.