From Next Monkey Horror (Toe Tags) comes the The Stitcher, the latest ultra low-budget flick from a two-woman filmmaking crew that hails from Oklahoma. Director Darla Enlow moonlights as cinematographer, editor, writer, and (in a dreadful cameo) Victim #1, an apparent casualty of the pre-opening credits scene. Dana Pike covers other production tasks, including costuming and makeup, and pulls her requisite cameo as a charming character named Homeless Loretta, who rivals Amy Winehouse and Shane MacGowan in the dental department. So, we’re essentially talking about a feature-length film by two ladies, and not in the Cabaret sense of the word but, if things had gone correctly, in an innovative, future-looking manner. This film is a tough one to review because, honestly, there aren’t that many women directors out there, and even the successful ones will get canned for the slightest hint of insubordination, whereas jackasses like Michael Bay can refuse to treat their own verbal diarrhea and get taken out for a beer after the day is over. So, while I would really like to give kudos to Enlow and Pike for such a brazen attempt to move forth in the competitive film industry, The Stitcher itself dictates otherwise. Unfortunately, all this film really accomplishes is proving that women filmmakers are just as equally capable as their male colleagues in producing a dreadfully banal horror flick.
In some regards, The Stitcher, with its micro budget, barely existent script, and lack of awareness as to the whole “lighting” concept, falls into the illustrious realm of Z movie badness. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing for a home-grown (shot mostly in Sapulpa), straight-to-DVD film, for it’s possible to shed the shackles of obscurity if the film actually manages to be, you know, somewhat entertaining as it spits in the face of conventional filmmaking. With such a project, exploitation is key to entertainment, but, here, the requisite elements of horror are pretty much eliminated by Enlow’s shock editing and mistaken belief that everything that supposedly happens offscreen will register with the audience as having occurred at all, let alone actually scare the pants off some chick whose date attempts seduction by horror flick. Any dude who pulls out this DVD is so not gonna get laid, and he’s not gonna find much spankworthy fodder either, despite a film that provides its audience with several dimwitted blondes and, clearly, intends to cash in on the tits-and-ass factor but fails to deliver even mild nudity. Instead, most of the girls wander around in cutoff shorts and a bikini top or, as in the case of Victim #1, an unattractive white cotton bra that hasn’t seen the light of popular culture since Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret? hit the young-adult bookshelves. In other words, The Stitcher doesn’t quite fall to the level of a homemade video, but it ranks solidly among those late-night, poorly-lit local commercials for local everything-must-go furniture liquidation sales.
Yes, everything must go.
Overall, The Stitcher is an uneven mess. Oh sure, some prospective viewers might just be duped by The Stitcher’s slick-looking DVD packaging and similarly deceptive soundtrack, which contains a somewhat spooky score and a handful of decent regional rock/metal bands. Also, while it’s obvious that Enlow has a passion for horror cinema, she gets hung up on the supposed infinite cleverness of her story’s premise and the all-importance of off-kilter camera angles and shock cuts in the editing room. Enlow introduces us to several non-dimensional characters that, ultimately, we don’t give a rat’s ass about. Brittany (Carmen Garrison) inherits a (supposedly) luxurious (yet sparsely furnished and barely decorated) vacation home, which just happens to be located near Blackstone Cove and in the jurisdiction of a few incompetent lawmen. Looking to “get away from it all,” a bunch of Brittany’s young-adult friends head out for a relaxing weekend at the lake, but things are (surprise!) not as they seem. Danielle (Caroline Wright) never makes it to the party, but we do get to meet some other stupid, hot blondes with great racks, Tamara (Laurel Williamson) and Erin (Celeste Cash). In addition, a miserably married couple, Michelle (Heather Surdukan) and Kurt (Christopher Rowe), are in attendance, along with stoner buddy Digger (Justin Boyd) and the swaggering, somewhat priggish “hero” named Nick (Scott Gaffen). While the friends drink themselves into oblivion and pools of vomit, a serial killer (somewhat mercifully) starts taking them out in a series of inexplicably robotic and unconvincing killings.
Actually, it’s hard to tell what actually occurs, plotwise, because all of the action happens very quickly and with blurred motion effects, but it appears that The Stitcher (Mike Kelley) himself is wielding some sort of weapon, which causes his victims inexplicably bleed at the points of supposed injury. This legendary killer possesses one hell of a bizarre obsession that has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he’s also a serial killer. Similarly, we don’t feel a connection with The Stitcher’s victims to care at all about them or why they’re all dying. The audience is simply forced to endure a series of senseless killings, which are rewarded only by a lengthy final exposition by the killer’s accomplice. All of this bullshit is supposed to be some grand revelation in manner of “Scooby Doo,” but it just doesn’t fly.
Most of this The Stitcher failure lies with the script, but much of the acting, particularly that of the actresses, is just bloody dreadful. It’s difficult to know exactly why these ladies are so embarrassingly awful in their roles. However, after a second viewing of Enlow’s opening cameo as Victim #1, I’m pretty sure they were instructed to overact as a matter of course. All is not entirely lost within the cast, however, for a few of the male actors actually manage to show signs of life. As Nick, local talent Scott Gaffen is tasked with a campy role that doesn’t allow him to stretch his acting legs as fully as I’ve seen him do quite often onstage. Hopefully, some better projects will come his way, which is also my hope for Justin Boyd, whose portrayal of Digger is perhaps the most entertaining part of the film. Boyd, who is best known regionally for his role in “Forever Plaid” (a repertory doo-wop tribute to the barbershop quartet era), shows some definite range after pulling off a halfway-amusing stoner character whose bong is both his downfall and means to paradise. Hell, after watching this The Stitcher, I fleetingly considered taking up such a leisure-related pasttime myself… if only to soothe the pain of watching this film.
Agent Bedhead (a.k.a. “Kimberly”) lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma and can be found at agentbedhead.com.Ree hee hee! Hrrruh? Ro-boy-o-boy-o-boy!
Film Reviews | December 10, 2008 | Comments ()