Directed by Benni Diez.
Starring Matt O’Leary, Clifton Collins Jr., Jessica Cook, Tony de Maeyer, Lance Henriksen, Cecilia Pillado, David Masterson.
A swarm of mutant killer wasps go on the rampage at a well-to-do garden party.
Creature feature B-movies, much like zombie movies, have become so numerous with the advances of CGI special effects technology that the novelty factor that once came with creating giant bugs and other gruesome monsters for the screen has often given way to complete indifference towards actors reacting to computer generated effects. There have been some notable exceptions in recent years – 2009’s excellent Infestation is a great example of getting the balance right – but the rise of SyFy Channel-style cheapness and the very self-aware nature of films like Sharknado has somewhat taken the edge off the genre.
However, every so often a movie like Stung comes along and reminds you that giant mutated insects can still look good when done using practical effects and that a simple story is usually best. In Stung there is nothing more than a fancy garden party getting invaded by a mutant strain of wasp whose sting causes the victim to host a giant strain of wasp that bursts out of the carrier in a fountain of blood and gore. Which is enticing stuff for fans of such madness, but don’t go getting over excited just yet as Stung also has a few problems that stop it being the all-out fun-fest it ought to have been.
The biggest flaw is with the pacing. The film is 83 minutes long – which is perfect for a movie like this – but it feels a lot longer, mainly because a) it takes 22 minutes for the first swarm of wasps to appear and b) there is an attempt to push for a chemistry between the two leads, played by Matt O’Leary and Jennifer Cook, that just isn’t there and makes the scenes between insect attacks slow the film down to a near halt. Not that O’Leary and Cook are bad actors, because they do individually bring an everyday pleasantness to their characters, but when they are together and Paul (O’Leary) makes his lusty eyes towards a unreciprocating Julia (Cook) there is no spark, no charisma and not much to distract you from the fact that the wasps aren’t attacking and not a lot else is going on.
Instead it’s left to Lance Henriksen (Aliens/The Terminator) to provide the necessary personality and gravitas as Mayor Caruthers, which he does and just about rescues the sagging mid-section of the film from a total charisma vacuum. And then something happens. It would appear that director Benni Diez noticed what was happening – or not, as the case may be – and ramps up the action for the final 15 minutes of the film which, although let down by some horrible CGI fire effects and a bizarre decision by a paramedic which makes no sense whatsoever, brings about some gloopy gore and a scene between Paul and a human/wasp hybrid that is reminiscent of the ending of Alien Resurrection. And when you have Lance Henriksen in your cast then the Aliens references come fast and thick (“They cut the power?”), which adds a bit of fun.
But a bit of fun is somethnig of a let-down when it should have been a LOT of fun, and unfortunately Stung just doesn’t keep up the momentum necessary to put it in the top leagues of mutant creature features. It is worth a look for fans as the practical effects are generally pretty good, despite a lot of the film being very dark (and we all know why filmmakers do that, don’t we?), and watching the fully grown creatures emerging from inside their victims is a definite highlight and something that a lot of the SyFy level movies shy away from in such gloriously gory detail. The fact they are practical effects evokes the monster movies of the 1950s, which is undoubtedly what Benni Diez was aiming for in terms of feel, but a little bit more confidence in the direction and writing would have pushed the film that little bit further into a higher recommendation. As it is, Stung provides a bit of popcorn entertainment but lacks any suspense or tension and is ultimately underwhelming.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★