With less than a week to go until FrightFest the 13th, I’m going to draw your attention to the UK Premiere of Connor McMahon’s horror comedy Stitches, taking place at this year’s festival.
A word of warning to any coulrophobics out there: FrightFest the 13th may not be the place for you. Comedian Ross Noble mixes black humour with gory horror in McMahon’s horror comedy; a tale about one bad, pissed off clown.
I like a good scare as much as the next horror aficionado, but for me personally, the next best thing to this unadulterated horror pleasure is a good comedy horror.
Connor McMahon’s first mix of black humour and gore left quite the impression on me when I was just an impressionable young horror fan, and so I’ll look back at his directorial debut Dead Meat to explain just why those of you like me who enjoy a good slice of comedy horror should be looking forward with glee to this screening of McMahon’s latest gruesome offering.
THEN: Dead Meat (2004)
Dead Meat was funded through what was then the ‘Microbudget Films’ initiative, set up by The Irish Film Board to find fiscally responsible independent filmmakers to invest in. Connor McMahon was one of the lucky recipients, and as they say the rest is history.
Dead Meat’s plot, like most zombie films, is fairly basic. Helena (Marián Araújo) and Martin’s (David Ryan) peaceful drive is interrupted when they run over a local man. Over the car radio sounds the news report of the Bovine epidemic that is sweeping the countryside. Unbeknownst to them they have just run over a zombie. Stopping to help the man, Martin is bitten, turns and tries to munch on his girl. Helena fights him off, and killing him in a rather inventive way, she finds herself all alone. With a touch of irony she comes across local gravedigger Desmond (David Muyllaert) and together they set off through the zombie infested countryside for the safety of his house, only to find it besieged by zombies. As luck would have it they are come upon by a couple in a car heading to the next town. They hitch a ride, only to hear on the radio that any non-infected people should head to a rendezvous point where they will be rescued.
Sitting on either side of 2004’s Dead Meat was Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (2002) and George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead (2005). What made Dead Meat unique was that it embraced the absurd, combining black comedy with enough gore to satisfy any bloodthirsty horror fan.
The film marked McMahon out as director of interest. This debut feature showed a strong visual flare, using the gore and surreal set pieces to heighten his dark brand of humour: death by vacuum cleaner, high heel, the blunt handle of a shovel shooting through the body of a zombie like an arrow. Also there are killer cows, attributed to the ‘mad cow disease’ epidemic, and even a living dead cow – no kidding.
Visually it may have been reminiscent of the look of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead in certain moments, but McMahon to his credit stepped out of the shadow, creating, not imitating.
Despite the inconsistencies that can be attributed to the dialogue and the performances, McMahon to his credit coaxed out of his actors performances full of pathos; both scripted and silent. He exhibited his penchant for tapping into the humanity of his characters, amidst what can only be described as a gratuitous and over the top fest of gore and humour. He understood the value of offsetting absurd violence and humour with the pathos of humane and gentler moments.
The living dead have defined the careers of many a horror director, from Romero to Raimi to Fulci. It seems Connor McMahon will be continuing his morbid fascination with the living dead, and his new film sees him move on from zombies and living dead cows to Stitches, the undead clown.
NOW: Stitches (2012)
The film tells the story of Stitches, who comes back from the dead to seek revenge on a group of sixteen-year-olds, who six years earlier had played a deadly prank at a birthday party that pushed Stitches over the finishing line. Featuring Ross Noble in the clown make-up, this slasher revenge horror comedy will be well served by McMahon’s dark brand of humour, visual flare, as well as his ability to expose the pathos of his killer clown amidst the plot’s violence and humour.
Stitches will hopefully provides FrightFest with a solid comedy horror, and based on his track record with Dead Meat, McMahon can clearly do both of these things very very well.