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Stitches   B

Full Moon Pictures / Tempe Entertainment

Year Released: 2001
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Neal Marshall Stevens
Writer: Benjamin Carr
Cast: Elizabeth Ince, Debra Mayer, Lindy Bryant, Robert Donavan, Alex Peabody, Kaycee Shank, Maggie Rose Fleck, Marc Newburger.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

Is it just me, or is there something inherently creepy about a seemingly sweet old lady who's really a malevolent demon intent on capturing people's souls? In Stitches, a clever little oddity from Full Moon Pictures and Tempe Entertainment, a minion of Satan disguised as an old lady named Mrs. Albright (Elizabeth Ince) takes a room at a cozy New England boarding house and begins to cause all kinds of trouble for the group of characters staying there.

And what a cast of characters it is. There's the hateful money-grubbing woman (Lindy Bryant) who runs the boarding house with the help of her illiterate niece (Maggie Rose Fleck), who she treats as a servant. The guests at the boarding house include a married couple comprised of a domineering and verbally abusive husband (Alex Peabody) and a wife (Debra Mayer) who tries in vain to make him happy, a quiet and sexually repressed young woman (Kaycee Shank) with secret desires, a young guy (Marc Newburger) who questions the existence of God and Satan, and a gentleman (Robert Donavan) who figures out that there's something fishy going on after a few of the house's inhabitants wind up missing.

Stitches is the first film directed by Neal Marshall Stevens (one of the screenwriters of the upcoming Warner Bros. remake of 13 Ghosts). It's a surprisingly self-assured and quirky debut -- and a film that actually gets better as it goes along. While the film sustains a pretty creepy atmosphere, it has whimsical sense of humor that compliments it nicely. It's the humor, so wicked and peculiar, that actually keeps the film from becoming totally absurd, because a movie about a demonic old lady who captures people's souls and imprisons them in her book of paper dolls just wouldn't fly if played entirely straight. Instead, it's played with a wink and a nudge, but it never makes fun of itself, either. And that's precisely why it works -- even when it turns into "When Paper Dolls Attack" near the end.

For the most part, Stitches is an ensemble piece and there are solid performances all around -- with a special nod to Elizabeth Ince as the diabolically sweet Mrs. Albright (whose name, by the way, is an in-joke Tempe fans will pick up on). And since Mrs. Albright engages in mind games with the characters and discovers their weaknesses and hidden desires in order to capture their souls, there's some decent character development here. The script, by frequent Full Moon scribe Benjamin Carr (Shrieker, Retro Puppetmaster), sprinkles little surprises here and there and keeps things intriguing. While the film is rather slow and deliberately paced, I think that's part of its charm.

For those of you keeping count, this is the third film resulting from Full Moon's partnership with Tempe Entertainment. Together they've produced Witchouse 2: Blood Coven, HorrorVision, this film here, and, most recently, The Vault. Even if they haven't turned out anything really wonderful yet, they've all been worthwhile genre flicks that hint that great things may be just around the corner (I'm curious as to how the upcoming William Shatner movie, Groom Lake, will turn out). As of now, I think the best film of the Full Moon/Tempe partnership is definitely Stitches. But how can you go wrong when you've got a nasty demon masquerading as a sweet little old lady?

Review published 04.30.2001.

Follow Michael Scrutchin on Twitter or Letterboxd.

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