'Stitch Face' follows the story of grieving parents Marsden (Edward Furlong) and Serafina (Shawna Waldron) as they cope with the loss of their young daughter. They turn to their best friends Pirino (Laurence Mason) and Colline (Shirly Brener) for healing advice. Their well-meaning friends take them out of the city for a weekend ritual meant to bum away emotional baggage. Unfortunately, the amateur ritual goes awry and cosmic forces are unleashed.
To reconcile themselves with the death of their daughter, Serafina (Shauna Waldron) and Marsden (Edward Furlong) travel to a remote mansion in the middle of the desert. They indulge in a strange cleansing ceremony seemingly designed for them to come to terms with death by summoning it (‘death is the infinite abyss of pure non-existence’, they are reliably informed by their friend Parlino, played by Laurence Mason) in order to ‘release the inner demon’.
As you may expect, rather than end their problems, this only serves to increase them by apparently bringing into reality some spectral entity with the head of an animal skull. Among various visions, the face of the dead daughter’s doll used in the ceremony is suddenly covered in gore and stitching. Pretty soon, Parlino’s partner Colline (Shirly Brener) also finds the side of her face wrecked in a similar manner.
It is only now they realise that travelling to this remote spot, with no nearby amenities (and of course, no cell phone signals) is not a practical idea. Especially as, possibly due to their strange ceremony, freak weather conditions appear to be signalling the end of the world. Well, why not?
The fairly meagre budget is utilised with huge ambition, and many effects, especially the gore, verge from fairly convincing to highly impressive. My main problem is the sound levels, which vary considerably. There’s nothing less likely to induce the kind of horror surreality ‘Stitch Face’ seems to be trying to invoke, than having to adjust the volume every few minutes. As the foursome start to sink into panic and recriminations, Marsden’s heartfelt pleas to his wife are inaudible.
As we move through isolation, infighting, a possible apocalypse, possession, living dolls and ‘something in the cellar’, it becomes clear that with this many ideas, there needs to be some mass revelation at the end to make any kind of sense of it all. As suspected, no true explanation really occurs and we are left with a tangle of often genuinely horrific set-pieces that leave us with a confused unease. There are many good things about this. The performances are fine even if the actors sometimes have to wrestle with some awkward dialogue. The concept of a haunted house always entertains me, and this must surely feature one of the ultimate examples of that. For instance, the awful image of a barely-dressed, provocative girl with the face and voice of a mangled demon is very impressive.
Director/writer Ajai’s film here reminds me a little of the work of the UK’s Richard Driscoll. Ajai’s work is a lot more original than Driscoll’s, but they both share an over-abundance of ideas and an unwillingness to recognise when to stop. Amongst the melee, there is a lot of talent on display here, although some restraining, steadying influence would be hugely advantageous. ‘Stitch Face’ is over-crowded with incident, but remains a flawed yet enjoyable exercise.