Stung (2015)

Rating: C+

Dir: Benni Diez
Star: Matt O’Leary, Jessica Cook, Lance Henriksen, Clifton Collins Jr.

My dislike of wasps is deep and long-held. One of the benefits of Arizona is they’re relatively rare here, the dry climate not being conducive to them – as opposed to Britain, where they’ll show up at the opening of a jam sandwich. But absence has not made the heart grow fonder; especially, as here, when we are talking about seven foot, parasitic wasps. These turn up at a swanky party given by a Mrs. Perch, to which Julia (Cook) and Paul (O’Leary) are providing the catering. Some dodgy fertilizer, mixed with growth hormones, gets washed into the soil, and triggers the local insects to mutate into a far larger and more aggressive form.

I can’t complain about the approach, with the wasps infecting their hosts and, mere minutes later, a giant adult form is exploding out of the victim. Incubation periods? Get out of here! There is a nice reliance on mainly practical effects, except at the end. I guess having said giant wasp, on fire, and clinging to the top of Julia’s catering van, was a stretch too far for the FX team, though the CGI is bad enough you understand why they didn’t bother anywhere else. There are some decently gory moments, Mrs. Perch’s son Sydney meeting a particularly juice fate. The problems are more with the characters, where Henriksen as Caruthers, the local mayor, is far more appealing than Paul, the supposed hero of proceedings.

Outside of the somewhat novel insect antagonists, it does feel as if Diez and his team were largely concerned with ripping scenes off from other, better movies. The basic idea is the “heroic everyman vs. monsters romantic comedy” which was done much better in Tremors, or Shaun of the Dead. Other elements seem borrowed from Aliens, and the presence of Henriksen nods towards that franchise, at least. Oddest, I got distinct Society vibes, in the way there seems to be a commentary on class conflict going on, with the upper classes being more or less literal parasites of the working class. I get that there’s no such thing as a truly original work; I just wish the creators had brought a greater degree of themselves to the table, such as really leaning into the social satire.

Perhaps a spot more unpredictability would have helped too: it’s hugely obvious from the beginning who’s going to survive, and you can almost predict the order in which they will bite the big one. The only unexpected moment sees someone taking a stinger through the head, just as they are getting up steam after being mistaken for a Mexican. This doesn’t make it a bad time, and it is clearly better than the SyFy Original movie level of production I was expecting [I’m looking at you, Dragonwasps]. However, consider my predisposition to the subject matter, I would have expected more impact, with only a couple of moments that live up to the undeniably enticing poster above.