Directed by Benni Diez
Starring Clifton Collins Jr., Jessica Cook, Lance Henriksen, David Masterson, Matt O’Leary, Cecilia Pillado, Kathleen Renish
A fancy garden party turns into upper class prey when a colony of killer wasps mutates into seven foot tall predators.
Imagine if you took The Fly, The Thing, Aliens, Eight Legged Freaks and that cockroach scene from A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 and put them into a blood-filled blender and you get the idea of what to expect from the wickedly fun Stung.
Taking place in a stately home during a rather posh dinner party to remember a family’s dead father, a group of party-goers and the duo providing the catering are given the shock of their lives when they are attacked by killer wasps. But matters turn to worse when the stings from these wasps turn their victims into giant versions of these killer wasps, who are now looking for more prey.
First-time feature director Benni Diez cut his teeth as visual effects artist on films like Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, but he keeps a lot of Stung grounded in practical effects. Clearly inspired by creature features from the 1980s, Diez uses a lot of puppetry work for his giant wasps/bees and only uses CGI when completely necessary. It’s a sort of lost art in this day and age of filmmaking, but it’s really a large part of what makes Stung such a charming movie. There’s a tangible element to the fear it creates and the terrified performances from its leading cast are helped when they have something they can act against. Furthermore, neither the practical or computer generated effects look shoddy or unconvincing, furthering the enjoyment of the film.
What makes Stung so much fun is that it takes itself seriously enough for the plot, characters and theme to work, but it never pushes itself too far to the point where the whole thing feels silly. Stung knows it’s a bonkers film and it revels in that madness. The script from Adam Aresty (his first produced script) isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but he has penned a film which can be enjoyed by late night theatre audiences for years to come – which was no doubt his aim. The cast equally match what Diez and Aresty have brought to the table, with some brilliant performances coming from Clifton Collins Jr. in particular. Acting legend Lance Henriksen is here merely for the ride, but his presence does help raise the gravitas of the movie. He’s in the sort of role he usually plays in this portion of his career, but someone like Robert Englund or Tony Todd might have been a better choice. Thankfully (and perhaps remarkably), there’s very little reference to the fact he was in Aliens.
Which is surprising as Stung does not shy away from the references it makes to James Cameron’s movie. The wasps themselves feel like Xenomorphs in their growth (infecting a human body and exploding out of them) and there’s a sequence towards the end that mirrors Ripley’s classic silent showdown with the Alien Queen. That’s not to say the movie is exclusive to Aliens homages, as there are elements taken from Croenberg’s The Fly, Carpenter’s The Thing in its body horror aspects as well as the fun nature of b-movie tributes like Eight Legged Freaks and Wolfcop. But these homages and tropes never overshadow the movie you’re watching. You don’t see a scene from Stung and think, ‘this is just like the Brudlefly reveal from The Fly‘, but glorious memories of those genre masterpieces are ever present in your mind to enhance the enjoyment.
Far too often filmmakers attempt to make a ‘so bad it’s good’ movie where it just ends up being plain bad, but Benni Diez has managed to get the balance just right. Stung is never ‘bad’, but’s always ‘good’ and at many other points it’s awesomely fun and entertaining. The gore levels are high, the scares are effective and its demeanour and treatment of subject matter are on point. Is it a stone-cold classic? Not really. But if you taped this off a late-night screening on Channel 4 in the late-80s, it would be one your favourite repeat viewings. And when Stung hits the home entertainment market, it’s going to create a buzz.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.