Given his talent, his popularity, and his face (good for everything from costume drama to kids' fantasy movies), it's amazing that it's taken this long for comedian Ross Noble to star in a film. What's even more incredible is that he chose a small budget horror shot in Co Wicklow for his big screen debut - talk about a coup for Stitches' director and co-writer Conor McMahon. The duo, however, are splatter movie soulmates and while Noble contends he wasn't McMahon's first choice for the lead, it's hard to see anyone else bringing the same mirth, mayhem and malevolence to clown-on-the-rampage Richard 'Stitches' Grindle.
For his sixth birthday party, Tom Clifford's (Tommy Knight) yummy-mummy has hired Stitches for the balloons and magic tricks. It's a tough crowd, however, for the sloppy and sozzled 'entertainer' and he loses control of the show and discovers the pint-sized punters can match him put-down for put-down. They're not content with just harassing him, either: they want humiliation. And when one prank goes horribly wrong, Stitches is all set for a circus slot in the next life. But a clown who does not finish a show cannot rest in peace...
Fast-forward 10 years and Tom is now an anxiety-riddled geek about to turn 16. His party guests from a decade ago have either become his trusted pals or his tormentors, all knowing that he has never properly recovered from that gruesome afternoon. Tom wants this birthday to be a 'few DVDs' affair, but what are friends for if not to invite a hundred others 'round to your house when your mother's away? And amidst all the uninvited guests there's a very special one with very special presents for Tom and the gang.
McMahon also directed the 'first 100% Irish horror' Dead Meat and the StoryLand series Zombie Bashers and his latest love affair with the undead proves to be his slickest and most ambitious yet. Mixing teen romp with slasher movie and throwing in loads of tributes along the way, Stitches' style and set-up recalls the great Swedish chiller-comedy Frostbite - perfect for watching last thing on a Friday or Saturday night and guaranteed a lengthy DVD afterlife. What McMahon lacks in budget he makes up for in over-the-top deaths involving his fine young Irish cast - it would be great to see what he and co-writer David O'Brien could do with more funds. As for Noble, this villain-you-hate-to-love performance suggests it will be the first of many. A sequel in this instance would be no bad thing.
A very silly movie, but if you're in the mood for slapstick and gore you'll get plenty. However, if clowns cause you the same distress that polystyrene and hard boiled eggs provoke in others, stay at home.