As far as escaping from the Sontaran-shaped shadow of The Sarah Jane Adventures goes, accidentally killing a clown and snacking on hash cakes pretty much does it.
Tommy Knight, yesterdays universe-saving boy wonder Luke, plays, er, Tommy, metaphorically, and then literally, haunted by the death of sleazy children’s entertainer Stitches (Geordie comic Ross Noble in a cross between Robert Englund’s Freddy Krueger, Billy Bob Thorton’s Bad Santa, and Reese Shearsmith’s Mr Jelly).
Six years on from the the pagliaccide, the kids have grown into a combination of Eighties High School slasher movie clichés and supporting characters from an Irish version of The Inbetweeners, and they reunite for a house party to celebrate/ruin Tommy’s umpteenth, but fuelled by evil clown magic, Stitches returns to exact his revenge.
As if the casting of Noble and the brilliantly daft concept wasn’t an early enough sign that it’s not exactly Don’t Look Now, the tone immediately disavows you of any lingering misconceptions with a grotesque, stylised take on generic teen movie dynamics that set the tone and drop-kick the narrative into action as Stitches returns from his uneasy rest to knock off each of the original party’s members in a suitably ironic and gristly way, with a one-liner to match.
While the setup screams A Nightmare On Elm Street – the later sequels especially in terms of the quip-to-quiver balance – the gore aims for the ludicrous practical excess of Peter Jackson’s Brain Dead, or Lloyd Kaufman’s The Toxic Avenger as blood sprays in jets from easily torn limbs, and heads are inflated until they explode – the latter money shot repeated from various angles in a salute to pure Eighties horror cheese.
It’s all good harmless fun, one of those movies for people who like to cheer at increasingly absurd fatalities, but there’s precious little else to engage with.
The comedy/horror balance favours the former to the point where there’s little to make you start, the ingeniously OTT practical effects undermined by the occasional Happy Shopper CG moment, the acting peaks at ‘competent’ leaving you uncertain which characters you’re supposed too be rooting for and which you’re not beyond the cartoon dickhead bully that gets offed early on and his equally cartoon dickhead girlfriend.
Even the set-piece gore gradually loses its viciously clever touch after the first couple of bespoke fatalities, reaching a sad sort of nadir with the death of the promiscuous dickhead girlfriend (umbrella through the back of her head; “Taken from behind,” says Stitches approvingly with a pelvic thrust and a party horn unfurling from his fly), followed by an especially joyless scene where he repeatedly swings a cat (clearly a toy, don’t get upset) against a wall.
Oh my sides.