Thursday, May 23, 2024

“STING”

THE STORY – After raising an unnervingly talented spider in secret, 12-year-old Charlotte must face the facts about her pet and fight for her family’s survival when the once-charming creature rapidly transforms into a giant, flesh-eating monster.

THE CAST – Ayla Browne, Ryan Corr, Penelope Mitchell, Danny Kim, Robyn Nevin, Noni Hazelhurst & Jermaine Fowler

THE TEAM – Kiah Roache-Turner (Director/Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 91 Minutes


The idea of spiders being perceived as terrifying is commonly shared among many individuals. How are these hairy eight-legged insects not frightful? The fact you have to discern which types are poisonous alone speaks volumes. There’s a reason why arachnophobia is a commonly exploited fear in horror films. These critters were created purely to inspire the genre’s sickest minds to elicit responses of pure disgust. Director Kiah Roache-Turner aims to tap into this terror with his new horror film, “Sting.” When the film isn’t bogged down by its family drama, there’s a somewhat enjoyable horror flick to be found, even though it never can escape its webbing.

“Sting” follows a twelve-year-old named Charlotte (Alyla Browne) who’s experiencing growing pains. Charlotte feels that her new sibling is taking all of her attention away; her mom (Penelope Mitchell) is always busy with work; connecting with her stepfather, Ethan (Ryan Corr), is hit or miss. Then, one day, while sneaking into an abandoned apartment in the building she lives in, Charlotte is enamored by a tiny spider (eventually named Sting). As Charlotte becomes more intrigued by the creature (which crashed to earth from the stars), things slowly worsen as Sting continues to grow. The rest of the plot is as you’d expect, as the spider attempts to slaughter its way through the cast in a gruesome manner. The reasoning behind why Sting landed on our planet or its constant need to consume is never acknowledged. And you know what? That’s fine. If you identify as having a fear of spiders, then “Sting” will have you at its heels.

Roache-Turner deploys his vile creation to dispose of characters with acidic webbing, internal puncturing, and overall ripping them to shreds. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t entertaining to a degree. It’s predictable, but “Sting” really tries to dial in on its small B-movie energy. The practical makeup work is also really well done, especially seeing kills involving the spider’s venom that makes victims’ skin boil and split apart. Watching the titular spider maneuver around the apartment building is also enjoyable due to Brad Shield’s cinematography. There’s a fluidity to it as the camera moves from room to room across roofs and walls. It occasionally feels a little gimmicky, but it’s a better alternative to drone shots helmed by someone who can’t maximize what makes that technique cinematically appealing. So, for now, it’s the closest the film successfully gets in attempting to put the audience in the position of the killer arachnid.

Sting the spider is the star of the film. That’s amplified by Rache-Turner’s commitment to bringing him to life with practical effects in collaboration with the amazingly talented folks at the Weta workshop. There’s an old-school feel to the use of puppetry as the crew attempted to avoid the use of CGI. Seeing the webbing and the makeup previously mentioned makes this out to be the thing of nightmares for those who get creeped out easily. Also, this aids the actors in eliciting a more genuine reaction when the time comes to possibly meeting their end. Unfortunately, that would probably be the only thing worth noting when it comes to the acting or character work in the film.

“Sting” would work far more if the film’s human element rode the same wavelength as the somewhat cheesy horror elements it excels at when it focuses on the spider. The struggling connection between Charlotte and Ethan isn’t that compelling or original. Everyone’s performances are enough to keep things running smoothly, but no one stands out. Jermaine Fowler appears for a couple of scenes as an exterminator caught up in everything, which lends to the film’s few attempts at having comedic relief. Even that doesn’t hold up compared to the real meat and potatoes of the film, which is seeing people get killed by a spider. Even the satisfaction of Sting’s kills wears off to a degree, as it feels like that’s all the film has to offer. It leans on the aspect that spiders are creepy-looking (which they are) and doesn’t offer much to generate a genuine reaction from viewers.

On a more functional level in terms of plotting, having all the characters either interact or connect due to being tenants of this apartment building is a well-conceived idea. It essentially makes the setting feel like it’s an essential part of the story. Seeing the murderous arachnid crawl through vents back and forth, hiding in plain sight, is a better alternative to keeping the story crammed in one apartment for the entire film. Yet, if there’s no reason to care about the thinly written characters that inhabit these walls, you’re just sitting there waiting for a death scene that may be enjoyable to watch. By the time “Sting’s” brief runtime comes to a close, it’ll already begin to leave your mind. It’s a digestible horror film that feels like it’s pulling its punches. Sure, spiders are gross, and so is this film, but there’s more you can offer to truly make something that’ll fuel the nightmares of anyone repulsed by the eight-legged pest.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Great practical effects help bring the creation of Sting to life and deliver some entertaining kills. Its brisk runtime ensures that the creepy guest never overstays his welcome.

THE BAD - When the film isn’t focused on the somewhat repetitive nature of slowly killing people (although in entertaining ways), it’s bogged down by uninteresting human characters. It’s a very familiar by-the-books B horror film that never goes as far as it needs to in terms of pushing the envelope.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 5/10

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Giovanni Lago
Giovanni Lago
Devoted believer in all things cinema and television. Awards Season obsessive and aspiring filmmaker.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>Great practical effects help bring the creation of Sting to life and deliver some entertaining kills. Its brisk runtime ensures that the creepy guest never overstays his welcome.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>When the film isn’t focused on the somewhat repetitive nature of slowly killing people (although in entertaining ways), it’s bogged down by uninteresting human characters. It’s a very familiar by-the-books B horror film that never goes as far as it needs to in terms of pushing the envelope.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>5/10<br><br>"STING"