It would be very easy to be “sniffy” about Benni Diez’s debut feature, Stung. An isolated stately home under attack by giant wasps who have mutated due to fertilizer being mixed with growth hormones as a premise might sound like the worst form of monster movie schlock you’ve ever heard of. But wind your genre tastes back a few years and this was the sort of film you’d hope to discover while channel-hopping on a Friday night; a credible return to the nostalgia of Them! or the darkly comic fun of Eight Legged Freaks. Stung isn’t entirely successful in filling that gap, but it has a damn good try.
Julia (Jessica Cook) runs a business organising parties (because, you know, she likes to party so…) and her next job is to provide the catering and entertainment for a fancy soirée in the garden of a country estate. Her unenthusiastic assistant/lackey Paul (Matt O’Leary), who has barely concealed romantic ideals on Julia, is soon the least of her worries as killer wasps begin emerging from a hole in the ground and proceed to parasitically impregnate all the guests.
Most of the enjoyment to be found in Stung stems from the use of practical effects. Apart from some necessary CGI - for instance, when the winged baddies take to the air - the majority of the encounters involve animatronic heads and appendages, with plenty of blood thrown in for colour. While effective in creating a sense of realism (yes, we know it’s still giant wasps) and avoiding unconvincing CGI that frequents so many low budget films, it does give the confrontations a languid feel and lessens the tension somewhat. The wasps also look distinctly alien rather than terrestrial, with more than a passing resemblance to H. R. Giger’s most famous creation. These are harsh criticisms, though, and ones that the film generally overcomes through a likeable cheesy sensibility and a refusal to take itself too seriously. The fact that some of the beasties that emerge from the guests still have their host’s torn faces adorning their bodies is both a gory and humorous touch.
So far as the performances go, they are as you would expect from a film of this type. O’Leary is fun as the slacker Paul who discovers his inner hero and (hardly a spoiler) “gets the girl” in the end; quite literally. Lance Henriksen adds some genre weight as the local mayor more interested in the wine vintage and re-election than the bug problem at hand, and Clifton Collins Jr. has great fun as the weird son of the homeowner who was always going to come to a sticky end.
Stung is nothing more, nothing less than you would hope it to be. It is a fun monster movie that hits all the most familiar genre beats and, while being thoroughly enjoyable throughout its fairly short running time, will not live too long in the memory. This is a film that will quickly find a home on some late night channel as a suitable double-bill companion to another giant insect instalment. Enjoy with beer and friends.STUNG / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: BENNI DIEZ / SCREENPLAY: ADAM ARESTY / STARRING: JESSICA COOK, LANCE HENRIKSEN, MATT O’LEARY, CLIFTON COLLINS JR., TONY DE MAEYER / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 26TH