Sting Review | Excellent Creature Feature with an Emotional Backdrop

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Summary

  • Great practical effects and mostly effective humor and thrills make
    Sting
    an engaging creature feature.
  • Strong emotional themes about family dynamics add depth to the story even if there are some clichés.
  • Clever use of a single apartment building and colorful characters elevate the film beyond typical horror fare.



In the annals of horror cinema, few films about spiders have resonated with audiences. Kingdom of the Spiders (1977), Arachnophobia (1990), and Eight Legged Freaks (2002) are three that most people can name off the top of their head, but beyond that, the arthropods have mainly been delegated to forgettable schlock theater and straight-to-DVD releases. Enter Kiah Roache-Turner with Sting.

The Australian director of Wyrmwood and its sequel, Wyrmwood: Apocalypse, has breathed new life into the creature feature with his fresh take on the giant spider in his latest film. By blending practical effects, a claustrophobic setting, and old-fashioned family drama, he’s created a horror movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, while at the same time providing enough scares and laughter to leave audiences feeling like they just got off a fun amusement park ride.



The Itsy Bitsy Spider…

Sting 2024 Movie Poster

Sting

4/5

Release Date
April 12, 2024

Director
Kiah Roache-Turner

Cast
Alyla Browne , Penelope Mitchell , Ryan Corr , Jermaine Fowler , Silvia Colloca

Pros

  • Great practical effects from Weta Workshop and some good thrills.
  • A strong cast and emotional themes about being a step-parent and step-child.
  • Clever use of the single setting of the apartment and its quirky inhabitants.
Cons

  • Some of the set-up is cliched and some humor is misplaced.

The premise behind Sting is, of course, completely absurd. An asteroid cluster passes by Earth, thus sending tiny meteors falling to the ground that contain extraterrestrial spiders. One of these projectiles crashes through the window of a Brooklyn apartment building and into a dollhouse, giving birth to the spider we’ll follow for the rest of the movie.

Said spider is then found by 12-year-old Charlotte (Alyla Browne), who has a penchant for crawling through the air ducts of her building to sneak into her grandaunt’s home to steal her dolls, which she uses to make macabre art for her social media channels. Charlotte, unperturbed by the small, unsuspecting space spider, takes the little critter and gives it a home in a mason jar, names her Sting after the Elven blade Bilbo finds in The Hobbit, and learns to communicate with it by way of a whistle that signifies the spider is hungry.


While all that is going on, her mother, Heather (Penelope Mitchell), and step-father, Ethan (Ryan Corr), are struggling to balance life with a new baby and their own careers. Heather is also dealing with her mother, Helga, (Noni Hazlehurst), who suffers from dementia. Ethan is a comic book artist who illustrates the comics that Charlotte writes, and is under a lot of pressure to finish a new book, lest he be removed from the project. Everyone in the comics industry knows that artists don’t make a lot of money, so to supplement his income and live rent-free, he also acts as the superintendent for the run-down apartment building that’s owned by Heather’s aunt, Gunter (Robyn Nevin).

Colorful Characters and a Strong Emotional Theme


It might seem like a lot to take in, but Kiah Roache-Turner introduces us seamlessly to each character and blends their stories together in a cohesive way that’s easy to understand. In addition to the family unit, the Brooklyn apartment building (which is actually the iconic ABC Studios in Sydney, Australia) is also filled with other colorful characters, such as the grieving and depressed widow, Maria (Silvia Colloca), and Eric (Danny Kim), a biology major who’s studying the ability of fish to regrow pancreatic beta cells.

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Toss in an unstable exterminator by way of actor and comedian Jermaine Fowler, and you have all the makings for a thriller peppered with jump scares and humor that balance each other for our enjoyment, even if that humor does feel a little misplaced at times.

The ensemble cast makes for a diverse group that gives the audience a layered, narrative thread to follow aside from what’s going on with Charlotte and Sting, especially when it comes to the relationship between step-father and step-daughter.

A Hungry Spider Is a Dangerous Thing

Speaking of Sting, wouldn’t you know it, but the little spider finds a way to get out of its mason jar and crawl through the same air ducts Charlotte does in order to find a more satisfying meal than the cockroaches she’s been feeding her. This leads to one of the best on-screen spider kills in cinema history, while Sting is still relatively normal size, so it begs the question…if Sting can do that while small, what can she do when she gets bigger?


Thankfully, we don’t have to wait long, as Sting grows faster and faster the more she eats. This eventually leads to a blowup between herself and her step-father, something that’s been brewing underneath the emotional surface for the entire film and is an effective theme. It’s here that the movie kicks things into high gear in a relentless third act that sees Charlotte act as the hero.

The Alien DNA is very present throughout the entire movie, but Kiah Roache-Turner really leans into his inspirations toward the end, making Charlotte an Ellen Ripley-type badass, which makes sense given the fact that Alyla Browne was actually given advice by Sigourney Weaver on how to act opposite a giant spider (they starred together in The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart around the same time Browne began filming Sting).


A Creature Feature to Remember

Whether or not Sting will be remembered 30 years from now like Arachnophobia is up to audiences to decide, but Kiah Roache-Turner has crafted a well-told story coupled with excellent practical effects from Weta Workshop that deserve recognition. That’s right, while the titular spider might start out as a CGI fabrication, as she grows we’re treated to a wonderful creation from the same Academy Award-winning company that gave us The Lord of the Rings. It appears so real you can smell the blood dripping off her fangs.

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In the end, Sting is an excellent throwback to films of yesteryear that delivers outstanding practical effects wrapped around an emotional core that only adds to its sustainability. It can be a little clichéd at points, and its humor sometimes relies on unrealistic reactions. However, the performances of the cast and the emotionally intelligent portrait of a step-father and his daughter are what elevate Sting beyond schlock cinema to something that feels like comfort food.

Sting was written and directed by Kiah Roache-Turner, and stars Ryan Corr, Alyla Browne, and Penelope Mitchell. It hits theaters on April 12, 2024, from Well Go USA Entertainment.

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