A brief pre-credits scene shows a big-breasted blonde (writer-director Darla Enlow) caked in blood, running screaming in the night. We never get a good look at her assailant, but we're in no doubt by the end of this scene that whoever it is, they've just delivered a very brutal death to said blonde.

Next we meet Brittany (Carmen Garrison) on her yacht, calling round her friends to ensure they can still make it to her party at a remote lakehouse she recently inherited from her aunt. Among the friends heading out to join her in the small hillbilly coastal town of Blackstone Cove are the short-tempered Michelle (Heather Surdukan), her hen-pecked wannabe filmmaker husband Kurt (Christopher Rowe), his slacker dopehead friend Digger (Justin Boyd), the sanctimonious Nick (Scott Gaffen) and gorgeous airhead Erin (Celeste Cash).

And Danielle (Caroline Wright), who is travelling alone by car. She stops at a gas station to ask for directions when her mobile phone signal disappears and becomes the first of the group to meet with the Stitcher ...

Meanwhile the disparate bunch of friends gather at Brittany's lakehouse and begin partying in the usual manner: drinking, bickering, jiggling their breasts around and smoking dope. The mindless mayhem halts briefly for Brittany to reminisce to the group about how she used to visit her aunt there as a child, and how that had all stopped after a tragedy at the local textile factory ...

Back at the gas station, local sheriff Wallace (Craig Walter) stumbles across Danielle's deserted car. He finds traces of blood but no body, and the hicks who work there offer no help whatsoever.

The party are aware that Danielle hasn't turned up and are unable to call her as no-one can get a phone signal. They're not too concerned, it transpires Danielle has a penchant for getting lost. The partying continues in the hot tub.

But when Kurt goes missing after a row with Michelle, and Michelle also disappears after going to look for him, the drunken group finally start to twig that something may be amiss. As does the sheriff and his dim-witted deputy, and after a slow start it's here that things pick up with the arrival of a masked assassin lurking in the woods - the Stitcher!

Woven into the thin plot is an air of suspicion from local yokels, creating a keen sense of urban paranoia that culminates in the final third of the film when Brittany's friends (obnoxious city types) begin to twig that all is not what it seems regarding the simple natives they've been too quick to mock. DELIVERANCE, anyone?!

THE STITCHER is also eager to please as a comedy of manners, with limited success. Digger is the comical dope-fiend character, getting on everyone's nerves with sexist remarks and slacker humour. Kurt meanwhile exists only as Digger's stooge and a pair of lugs for Michelle to torment. There's plenty of internal bickering going on among the friends during the film's first half, much of which is written with pithy humour by director Dala Enlow (TOE TAGS). While this helps to flesh out characters without resorting to obvious exposition, it does become a little repetitive (Digger's constant sexism is tiresome, and the script must surely boast the World Record for the most use of the phrase "dumb ass" ever).

Considering the film was written and directed by a woman, it may come as no surprise at all that all but one of the male characters are unreservedly reprehensible oafs. If they're not farting or belching they're ogling women's breasts, slobbering around the place drunk and/or stoned, or just too plain imbecilic to manage any of the above. The only level-headed male in THE STITCHER is Nick. His holier-than-thou persona is arguably even more loathsome than his Neanderthal counterparts.

In Enlow's defence, her female characters don't fare much better - Michelle is so naggy that it's impossible not to wish her a nasty fate, while the majority of the remaining women spend the film skimpily dressed for maximum cleavage exposure. Not that I'm complaining ...

When the action starts and the surviving friends begin to realise what's going on, Enlow handles the suspense well with strong performances, controlled tracking shots and slick editing. These later scenes are where the film drops much of its humour and comes to life. There's an interesting twist to be enjoyed too: silly, but enjoyable nevertheless.

The violence in THE STITCHER feels strangely muted for an unrated production, but I suspect this is more to with budgetary limitations - not to mention that the film boasts a crew of only two (!): Enlow and Dana Pike.

In that respect, THE STITCHER is undeniably ambitious. But it's also overly familiar and suffers from an underused assassin and a first-half that's a little too preoccupied with adolescent humour. Once the shit hits the fan it scrubs up well and suggests that Enlow is a talent to watch in the future.

VCI's disc states that the film's transfer is 16x9 enhanced. It's not, but it is presented in a sharp and grain-free 1.85:1 ratio. Colours and images hold up well, as would be expected for a recent shot-on-digital piece.

The soundtrack is available in stereo and 5.1 mixes. Both are good authentic-sounding mixes, offering clearly balanced audio.

Animated interactive menus include a scene-selection menu allowing access to the main feature via 12 chapters.

Extras begin with an enjoyable commentary track from Enlow, Pike and various cast members. All are in good spirits and although there's not a huge amount of technical information to be gleamed from this, it's entertaining enough. Predictably, Enlow holds centre-court.

A Behind-The-Scenes photo gallery is actually hundreds of stills taken on location, spread across 11 minutes of dodgy Alice In Chains-type 90's rock. CARTHAGE is an intriguing addition to the disc. It's a colourful "digital comic" set to atmospheric synthesizers for the most part. It unravels laconically, telling its tale over 10 minutes in the style of a very vivid storyboard/graphic novel. An interesting concept.

"Stitching It All Together" is a slickly edited 19-minute Making Of documentary presented by Enlow, who is rightfully proud to be one half of the tiny all-female crew. Plenty of on-location footage and cast interviews follow.

A 12-minute blooper reel is largely comprised of timecoded footage of the cast either laughing or forgetting their lines. Or both.


Finally we move into iffy territory with three music videos. The first two are live performances from dated electro-rockers RADIORADIO (in the film's cringiest moment, Digger and Kurt shamelessly plug the band). The renditions of "Mushroom" and "Butterfly" are energetic, but you're unlikely to fall in love with either tune.

The last clip is a promo video for a track by Darkset Theory. The video's unintentionally amusing but competently staged, while the music is old-fashioned metal: the type of stuff Carcass were doing two decades ago.

THE STITCHER isn't revelatory and doesn't quite manage to transcend the limitations of its budget. But it's full of life and it's keen to please - the horror elements, when they finally come to the fore, are filmed with earnest and hint at hopefully more interesting things to come from this collective in the future.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by VCI Entertainment
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review