Last night at Comic-Con, we saw the premiere of comics writer Garth Ennis's first short film. Stitched follows a group of NATO soldiers in Afghanistan as they vie with strange, seemingly unkillable monsters that aren't quite like any zombies we've seen before.
The plot of Stitched is straightforward enough - three American soldiers have survived a helicopter crash, stranding them in the mountains of Afghanistan. While they wait for rescue, they have to keep moving through the enemy territory, but they discover something is lurking in the mountains that scares even the Taliban: strange figures wearing white rags that are almost impervious to bullets and seem intent on ripping people's organs out of their bodies.
Just as all appears lost, the trio are saved from the creatures by some British soldiers, who take out the black-robed figure controlling the other, white-robed creatures. Upon closer examination, they find that the creatures' faces appear stitched together, and blowing off part of their heads reveal their skulls are completely empty. Just then, the soldiers spot at least twenty more of these monsters incoming, and so they take off into the mountains...at which point the movie ends, with a promise that the story will be continued.
As the panel revealed, that continuation will come in the form of a comic book series, which Ennis will be writing for Avatar Press. In all honesty, the switch in mediums may be for the best, as I wasn't exactly wowed with the short film. The stitched monsters themselves are a neat concept - more on that in a minute - and their make-up is well-executed, but the rest of the movie feels like very standard-issue horror plotting-by-numbers.
Indeed, that's true even when it doesn't really make sense in terms of the actual story - the young female soldier Twiggy embodies every trope of the easily terrified, frequently hysterical woman who falls apart when the monster shows up. She's clearly meant to be an inexperienced soldier, but this really pushes it...and that's somewhat surprising, considering Ennis's lengthy experience writing military characters.
Anyway, for all the movie's faults, I will say Ennis's conception of zombies - a term he said he doesn't mind people using in describing these creatures - is different from the norm, and it's easily the most compelling aspect of Stitched. At the panel, Ennis explained he wanted to get as far away as possible from the idea of zombies as reanimated dead, and so instead these were creations of medieval black magic, in keeping with the more mystical roots of zombie legends.
More to the point, Ennis explained these were zombies specifically designed for the battlefield - splitting their head open won't work, and they have no brains to blast out. Their invincibility makes them perfectly adapted for war, and they can be used as shock troops or as infiltration units. Ennis said this was old magic being put to a new purpose, and he would be exploring this modern evil in the comic series.
While I can't particularly recommend Stitched as a movie, I will say that, as the beginning of a larger story, I can still see some potential in it offering a potentially very different take on the well-worn zombie story. You can see the trailer up top to judge for yourself, and check out the official site here.