21st Aug2015

Frightfest 2015: ‘Stung’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Matt O’Leary, Jessica Cook, Lance Henriksen, Clifton Collins Jr., Cecilia Pillado | Written by Adam Aresty | Directed by Benni Diez

stung

I love creature features. I love “killer bug” movies – like Infestation – even more (which would also explain my love for the Earth Defence Force video games). So it was pretty much guaranteed that I would adore Stung

Blending the cliches of traditional insect movies with bizarre creature feature tropes, Stung – the debut feature from German director Benni Diez – follows caterers Paul and Julia, who are hired to organise the bar and buffet for wealthy Mrs. Perch’s annual garden party and think that’s all they have to worry about. Wrong! Mrs Perch’s illegally imported plant fertilizer has infected a local species of killer wasps and with the celebrations in full swing the swarm attack, lay eggs in their human prey, which then mutate into 7-foot tall predators with an attitude!

So we’ve got 7-foot tall bugs who mutate out of the bodies of human hosts AND Lance Henriksen? Sounds like B-movie heaven to me! And it is. You’ve got to love a movie that gets straight to the [plot] point and runs with it! There’s hardly time to take a breath during Stung‘s just shy of 90 minutes run time, we’re barely 15 minutes into the movie before the bugs explode on the scene (literally) and all hell breaks loose.

Oh, and did I mention the creature effects are predominantly practical? From the body-spliting births, to their puss-filled deaths, the monsters of Stung are (mostly) CGI-free and look all the better for it! Interestingly, beyond some German music playing during one key scare-scene, you’d be hard-pressed to realise that Stung is actually a German production. The film has very American sensibilities, from the “young couple in peril” pair of lead characters, to the very Americanised “Old South” idea of the upmarket garden party. It’s only the splatter-movie like creature effects giving any clue to the films German origins. Some of the “hatching” scenes, which honestly rival John Carpenter’s The Thing for sheer creativity and general icky-ness, are a gore-filled delight – especially as some of the bugs, as they shed their human host skin, have some body parts remaining attached (in particular human heads), giving these creatures a real other-worldly hybrid look.

Speaking of body parts, Stung has a superb cast. Clifton Collins is almost unrecognisable as a weedy, greasy-haired, glasses-wearing momma’s boy who, it turns out, is the Renfield to his mothers Dracula. If Dracula was a giant insect and Renfield had a 2nd bug-head growing out of his shoulder! Meanwhile Lance Henriksen is his usual, reliable, self – he even manages to throw a little humour in to his horror repetoire! But its the two leads, and especially the feisty Jessica Cook, who – for me – steals the film.

If only the ending didn’t feel so rushed.

Building to a crescendo of monster mayhem, Stung, ends on a coda that feels like it was filmed at the last minute. Even the effects – so glorious rendered for the majority of the film – look under-developed and incomplete, sadly detracting from what has come before. It’s an ending that leaves the movie without a sting in its tale.

***½ 3.5/5

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