Mr Stitch Reviews

 

 

Unlike his fellow Video Archives graduate Quentin Tarantino, one cannot accuse writer-director Roger Avary of repeating himself. Instead of following his violent 1994 debut Killing Zoe with another crime picture, his sophomore effort comes in the form of Mr. Stitch, a bizarre, ambitious, but uneven science fiction fantasy that was originally intended as a TV pilot.

An appropriately subdued Wil Wheaton plays Lazarus, the "Mr. Stitch" of the title--an androgynous Frankenstein-esque creature composed from the remains of 44 men and 44 women. Lazarus is the pet project of one Dr. Rue Wakeman (Rutger Hauer), a shady scientist working for a mysterious agency. Problems arise when the violent, superhumanly strong Lazarus begins to have memories of his past lives, including that of Wakeman's former scientific associate, Dr. Frederick Texarian (Ron Perlman), who was romantically involved with Lazarus's psychoanalyst, Dr. Elizabeth English (Nia Peeples).

The real standout in Mr. Stitch is striking minimalist look of the picture. Most of the action takes place in a purely white room that appears to have no walls; sparse black furnishings break up the endless sea of white. This dichromatic scheme created by production designer Damian LaFranche and cinematographer Tom Richmond is fascinating and more than a little unsettling: the white-clad scientists and orderlies blend in with background, with only their heads clearly visible, and the somewhat grotesque makeup of multicolored, poorly stitched together Lazarus (created by effects whiz Tom Savini, who also has a bit part) just stands out even more against the plain backdrop. Other little touches add to the otherworldly and disturbing atmosphere--a floating, computer-generated eye that watches Lazarus's every move; the sleek, futuristic furniture; and the yellow slime that oozes from broken machinery. If anything, Avary has succeeded in creating a convincing alien world that at once intrigues and repels.

However, the story doesn't quite come together as well as the atmosphere. The major problem is the erratic pacing, which can probably be attributed to its origins as a failed TV pilot. For the first hour or so, events move at a relaxed pace, slowly building up characters and plot points not unlike a pilot would set up subsequent episodes of a series. However, when the final thirty minutes kick in, events progress fast and furiously, and the result is jarring and feels more than a bit forced, as if there was a sudden rush to sum it all up once the series prospects went kaput. The setup, with its subtle plot hints and slowly developing characters, is so effectively done that it appears to buildup to a great payoff; when the race to the end begins, it cannot help but feel rather premature, for it feels as if the story was just beginning.

As a result, some characters aren't fully developed. The biggest victim of this is the character of Elizabeth, who doesn't evolve beyond being the token "good scientist" in the piece (Peeples's colorless performance does not help). Hauer's Dr. Wakeman is an interesting, eccentric villain with a lot of potential, but he gradually fades into the background before inexplicably disappearing altogether (though that disappearance likely has to do with the falling out between Hauer and Avary during filming). The most fleshed out of the bunch, of course, is Lazarus, the tortured soul struggling to create a unique identity for itself as the old personalities try to break free. But even its character progression comes off hurried, for a crucial turning point, while having been set up through the course of the film, comes rather abruptly.

All in all, though, Mr. Stitch is a reasonably diverting rental option, thanks to Avary's intriguing vision; however, one cannot help but feel that the story could only have been given its full justice in its intended form--as a television series. One final note: People in the know will spot the obligatory Video Archives references, from former clerk Stevo Polyi's part as one of Dr. Wakeman's assistants to references to "J. [Jerry] Martinez" and "R. [Russell] Vossler," former Archivists themselves. (WarnerVision/Rysher Entertainment)

 

 

MR. STITCH (1996)

A Film Review
Copyright Dragan Antulov 2004


Few movie experiences are as depressive and disheartening as those
created by films that start with big promise and end with even
greater disappointment. One of such films is MR. STITCH, 1996
science fiction thriller written and directed by Roger Avary.

The plot starts in the secret laboratory when a strange-looking
creature (played by Wil Wheaton) wants to find who or what he is.
The answer is provided by Dr. Rue Wakerman (played by Rutger
Hauer), head of the project. Creature, called Subject 03, is man
artificially assembled from organs and tissue belonging to 88
different donors while his memories are artificial databank implants.
Subject 03 is slightly stronger than average human, but he is more
interested in mental than physical exercises and spends all his time
trying to learn about the world. After a while, Subject 03, who
renamed himself into Lazarus, begins to suffer from nightmares.
After the encounter with psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth English (played
by Nia Peeples) he realises that he inherited some of the donors'
memories. When Dr. English gets removed from the project, Lazarus
escapes from laboratory and discovers the real purpose behind his
creation.

MR. STITCH starts as very unusual film. The plot is set in
surrealistically white room while the huge emphasis is given to
various ethical and philosophical discussions - something not so
common in science fiction films. Roger Avary, former partner of
Quentin Tarantino, obviously tried to use meagre financial resources
to create modern yet more cerebral version of FRANKENSTEIN. In
the first part of the film he succeeds in that - film is surreal despite
the lack of special effects, while Wil Wheaton and Rutger Hauer
deliver some powerful acting accompanied by Tomadandy's
atmospheric music. Unfortunately, the whole concept begins to fall
apart in the second part. Protagonist's encounter with outside world
reveals film's low budget and Avary seems to give up trying to
maintain serious tone. The plot degenerates into the series of
annoying cliches but few would expect badness embodied in
jingoistic US general, played by Michael Harris. His uniform, that
would look ridiculous even in 19th Century, destroys any illusion of
MR. STITCH being anything other than self-parody. Unfortunately,
by that time most viewers would feel too disappointed to laugh and
those who based their expectations on Avary's reputation would feel
cheated.

RATING: 2/10 (-)

Review written on June 24th 2004