It’s been quite a while since we’ve had a decent (read: scary) creature feature, never mind one that isn’t reliant on Z-list celebrity cameos or purposefully terrible VFX to carry its non-existent story.
The Asylum’s output, fun as it is, isn’t breaking any boundaries. And the fortieth anniversary celebrations for Spielberg’s incomparable Jaws only served to highlight how no movie since has captured that fear of going back into the water.
Stung‘s gorgeous, old school poster should give some indication of how far removed it is from the so-called modern creature feature. Although it isn’t exactly Jaws with wasps, it’s not Giant Wasps From Another Planet 6 either.
I’m not fond of that rather lazy descriptor as it is, especially since it nearly always leads to disappointment. However Stung, the debut feature from the fantastically-named Benni Diez, is probably best described as Jaws with giant wasps, with lots more in its nest besides.
The flick follows likable odd non-couple Julia (Jessica Cook) and Paul (Matt O’Leary), a couple of freelance caterers tasked with handling the food and drink for a rich family’s fancy garden party.
Suffice to say, although they start out bickering over professionalism and the merits of taking over the family business, they’re soon fleeing for their lives from massive, winged beasts alongside the snooty guests.Stung is interesting because it seems, at first, like the typical, low budget, one location creature feature. The garden party is the perfect breeding ground for giant wasps. The persistent clicking and buzzing before any of them actually glide into focus suggests we’re in for the typical 90 minutes of running and screaming nonsense, with a few cool stings here and there.
However, the real fun comes when everybody hides indoors, and the gradual revelation of the complications that occur as a result of being stung. The effects are gloriously gooey, grungy and steadfastly practical, with the CGI polishes seamlessly blended in.
The transformation sequences are disgusting, limbs and wings busting out of everywhere while characters scream in terror, recalling classic Cronenberg but with a modern twist.
The wasps themselves are massive and terrifying, the attention to detail that went into their creation evident from the cringe-inducing close-ups we are, luckily, afforded (that to which the poster refers is a particularly stomach-churning moment).
There is a lull in the middle, following the initial attack, when several characters are holed up in the basement wondering what to do next. The boredom is alleviated slightly by the presence of screen legend Lance Henriksen, who apes his Aliens character and provides some much-needed colour in the absence of any action.
Luckily, once it begins to pick up again, Stung doesn’t stop, hurtling towards its batshit crazy finale without ever pausing for breath. However, as mad as it gets, the film is anchored by the charming coupling at its heart.
Cook and O’Leary have an easy chemistry, a spark that doesn’t feel forced according to circumstance. They make a good team and they’re easy to root for. Considering the body count is quite high, it’s nice to have at least two, well-rounded character behind whom we can rally.
Considering Stung is Diez’s directorial debut, from a script by fellow first-timer Adam Aresty, it’s even more impressive that it manages to avoid falling foul of the usual modern horror move pitfalls.
This is an, at times, terrifying film that, refreshingly, does not rely on cheap jump scares. Diez is proud of his monsters and gives us several wonderful money shots to squirm over, unlike the likes of, say, Sharktopus, which has to hide its seams.
Stung is not a perfect movie; there’s a considerable bloat in the middle, and the Germany-set location never once convinces as somewhere in the American suburbs. Certain characters are given very little to do and there’s also a sense that the story wasn’t quite developed enough beyond the initial setup. However, it’s really good fun, properly scary at times, the effects are brilliantly disgusting and the central pair are terrific.
In a world of sharknadoes, lavalantulas and crocasaurauses, it’s nice to see some good old-fashioned, expertly-realised and genuinely frightening, simple giant wasps causing havoc.
Related: Lavalantula is Silly Fun
WICKED RATING: (6.5/10)
Director(s): Benni Diez
Writer(s): Adam Aresty
Stars: Jessica Cook, Matt O’Leary, Lance Henriksen, Clifton Collins Jnr.
Studio/ Production Co: Rat Pack Filmproduktion
Length: 87 minutes
Sub-Genre: Creature feature