Editor’s Notes: Stung is currently out in limited release.
Stung is about killer wasps. There’s no beating around the bush, its various story arcs are put into motion and interacted with by mutated homicidal insects. There are several legs, antennae, and stingers, but what does it all amount to?
There are several legs, antennae, and stingers, but what does it all amount to?
Since the dawn of time, such plots have generally been recipes for mindlessly masturbatory shock value. The random self-aware creature features that display this quality make up a century-long cookbook, one that’s several pages too long. But, from time to time, what’s removed from the oven turns out to be a gleeful celebration of juvenile silliness. The writers of these creature features, the “chefs” of my excessively complex metaphor, create either self-indulgent schlock or self-delighting fun. Stung seems to be the latter, though not quite cooked to a crispy golden-brown.
There’s directorial confidence in every frame, but it’s not totally visible until the wasps begin to take flight. When the actors are center are center stage, saddled with what the writers paid the least attention to (the opening fifteen minutes), there’s nothing particularly special at play. But, polished CGI, fantastic practical effects, detailed sets, and tight pacing are suddenly thrown onscreen when everything hits the fan. Characters and their (minimal) arcs start to feel entertaining, dialogue becomes sharper, and the film’s B-movie roots are wholeheartedly embraced. Despite those improvements, though, something does seem perpetually off. There’s a slight disconnect. That is, until the character count is down to around four. With less people to balance, the writing improves itself. And, finally, the fun arrives in heavy droves.
Together they team up to take down the wasps, strangely defying specific genre tropes and blatantly flirting the whole way.
The four characters who do in fact populate the second half of the film are undoubtedly the best ones and, quite unlike the opening fifteen minutes, obviously received the most attention from the writers. Lance Henriksen plays Caruthers, a soon-to-be-reelected Mayor who can’t stop pointing out that “surviving this giant killer wasp onslaught will be a great damn story.” It’s essentially all he amounts to, but he’s a nice single-trait person to have around. One-dimensional, but better so than the supporting crowd found in similar entertainment. Clifton Collins Jr. is Sydney, the son of the rich family whose extravagant mansion the majority of the film takes place throughout. Sydney’s a strange character, with the mannerisms of a spoiled seven year-old in the stringy-haired body of a lonely thirty or forty year-old man. He complains about his negligent mother with such shifty stuttering that you can’t help but suspect foul play, and, well, you wouldn’t be incorrect. Finally, our leads are caterers Julia and Paul, played respectively by Jessica Cook and Matt O’Leary. Even though their failed banter is what makes the first fifteen minutes so underwhelming, they definitely improve (along with everything else) when the wasps launch their attack. They’re caterers who, like in the highlights of the action and horror genre, are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Together they team up to take down the wasps, strangely defying specific genre tropes and blatantly flirting the whole way.
Sure, it’s not the most polished thing in the world. It’s not perfect, but that’s just how I like my homage-rooted creature features. What it does well, it does very well. Stung is fun, and because it’s made with a nice amount of skill, that’s enough.
It's not perfect, but that's just how I like my homage-rooted creature features. What it does well, it does very well. Stung is fun, and because it's made with a nice amount of skill, that's enough.