Stung, the debut feature film from Benni Diez and screenwriter Adam Aresty, impressed audiences at this year’s Frightfest and sports one of our favourite posters of 2015. Not surprising when you check out the horde of experienced producers behind the project, people like Todd Brown, Christian Becker, and Nate Bolotin, who collectively orchestrated films like The ABCs of Death, The Raid, Tusk, and Spring.
The whole giant bug thing isn’t exactly new to horror. Back in the 50’s giant animals and insects invaded Hollywood sci-fi to the point of saturation, films like Them! and The Deadly Mantis replaced the impending doom of The Cold War with an otherworldly (sometimes extra-terrestrial, sometimes prehistoric) threat. Stung, counts itself amongst films like Big-Ass Spider and Eight Legged Freaks, together forming a kind of self-aware B-Movie revival.
And that’s how you have to gauge the film. Stung is utterly ridiculous, but not really as fun as it should be. Its two main characters are rarely likeable; Jessica Cook and Matt O’Leary are handed stupid scripts and do their best but this is, after all, a monster movie, so perhaps they don’t really matter, which is why romantic threads seem forced and irritatingly distracting. Clifton Collin Jr. gets minimal scripting but is able to show everyone else, including genre-heavyweight Lance Henriksen, how to have fun. Henriksen is one of the biggest disappointments here, his sizable screentime (a rarity in his modern CV) is encouraging, but never as bonkers as it could be. Maybe I’m getting too involved, maybe I just wish the film had been Lance Henriksen Vs the Cronenberg Wasps. Either way, the veteran has enough charisma to keep you watching, but never quite gets the action set-piece you’re daydreaming about.
In other news, the creature design is phenomenal. Honestly. Diez and Aresty are to be credited with a superb mid-act shift. Just when you think the threat has been cut short at a swarm of aggressive, albeit ordinary, insects everything goes wrong. Victims of the hoard burst open to reveal giant Wasps still covered in patches of their human hosts. Amidst the screaming and shouting of posh old folks, can be heard the ripping and gushing of human bodies, bending and snapping to give way to Part Two of the threat. It’s disgusting, hilarious, and genuinely impressive.
A film with great potential, Stung has all the makings of your new favourite creature-feature; a big old tongue in its cheek and some truly disgusting, totally beautiful practical effects. However, forced romance, and a pace which doesn’t live up to its monsters, leave the film dwindling in mediocrity.
Dir: Benni Diez
Stars: Matt O’Leary, Jessica Cook, Clifton Collins Jr., Lance Henriksen