An imaginative variation on the Frankenstein story, MR. STITCH stretches its low budget with commendable facility.
In a secret underground lab, a team of scientists led by Dr. Rue Wakeman (Rutger Hauer) has created a patchwork man (Wil Wheaton) out of body parts from 88 different individuals. Psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth English (Nia Peeples) is brought in to orient this creation, who, after reading the Bible,
chooses to call himself Lazarus. Lazarus begins to bond with Dr. English, but also becomes tormented by visions--memories, it turns out, from his many "donors." When Dr. Wakeman decides that Dr. English has gotten too close to Lazarus, she is removed from the project, inspiring Lazarus to escape
from the lab.
Eluding armed pursuers, Lazarus visits a woman whose husband and son--two of his donors--were killed in a car accident, to tell her that her husband and son still love her. He then finds his way to Dr. English's apartment, where he reveals that another of his donors was her former lover, Dr.
Frederick Texarian (Ron Perlman), a scientist colleague who was killed when he tried to stop Wakeman's project. Lazarus, it turns out, was intended to be a supersoldier, and he realizes that there's only one way to end the experiments. Returning to the lab, he confronts General Hardcastle (Michael
Harris), the project's military backer, and kills both the general and himself.
MR. STITCH signals a new direction for writer-director Roger Avary, who co-wrote PULP FICTION (1994) and helmed the similarly themed KILLING ZOE (1994). By eschewing the in-your-face violence and camerawork of his previous movies, Avary has crafted a spare, frequently almost surreal film. A good
deal of the story takes place in the sterile, white, dimensionless lab space, empty save for Lazarus, his occasional visitors, some simple furniture, and a large, floating eyeball that watches over him (a nifty computer-generated effect). Yet the film never becomes monotonous; Avary keeps the
drama building as Lazarus discovers truths about himself and develops genuine feelings for Dr. English.
While the performances are uneven, the central emotions ring true, anchored by the empathetic performance of Wheaton (even under his very convincing, multi-colored skin makeup by Tom Savini). And when the action moves outside the lab, Avary serves up a genuinely exciting car chase. The fact that
some of the soldiers pursue Lazarus in what look like souped-up go-carts is all of a piece with Avary's off-kilter visual style, which succeeds through the confidence and coherence he has applied to it.
Originally developed as a pilot for a television series, MR. STITCH had a troubled production history (evidenced by its lack of a producer credit), culminating with Hauer walking off the film midshoot. The result is that Lazarus confronts General Hardcastle instead of Dr. Wakeman at the climax,
and this incongruity--coupled with Harris's overacting--makes the ending something of a letdown after the compelling 90 minutes preceding it. (Violence, sexual situations, profanity.)
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- Released: 1996
- Rating: R
- Review: An imaginative variation on the Frankenstein story, MR. STITCH stretches its low budget with commendable facility. In a secret underground lab, a team of scientists led by Dr. Rue Wakeman (Rutger Hauer) has created a patchwork man (Wil Wheaton) out of bod… (more)