Sting : Movie Review

Posted by Eddie Pasa on April 11, 2024 in / No Comments

 

Rated R by the MPA for violent content, bloody images and language. Contains two early mid-credits stingers. Running time: 93 minutes. Released by Well Go USA Entertainment and StudioCanal.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Well Go USA Entertainment, StingFull disclosure: I’m an arachnophobe. Straight up. Yes, I understand their importance in the food chain, and hooray for them eating mosquitoes and all, but small or large, spiders to me just… euuughhh. So, how was Kiah Roache-Turner’s Sting for me? Honestly, fairly enjoyable while tweaking discomfort levels up just enough maintain a steady atmosphere of frights. Roache-Turner takes a page out of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws playbook by not showing this alien spider excessively, opting to cloak this villainous spider in shadows and picking his moments carefully to reveal more threatening physical features that give us the willies.

It’s this approach that keeps us hanging on while Sting – so named by 12-year-old Charlotte (Alyla Browne) after spotting J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings on her bookshelf – plays nice in Charlotte’s waking moments, becoming a sort-of friend while shut in with her family during a New York City ice storm. This chamber play – filmed entirely in an Australian studio – feels deceptively expansive, largely thanks to cinematographer Brad Shield making Charlotte’s apartment building look like the Grand Canyon. We’re given several locales in the building for various characters to nest, from long hallways to cramped living spaces which provide familiar comfort, eventually contrasted by darker spaces where Sting takes her (its gender is assigned by Charlotte) victims to hang in webs before having a snack.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Well Go USA Entertainment, StingThis large feeling even translates to the air ducts Charlotte runs around in, looking in at the various people living in her grandmother Gunter’s (Robyn Nevin) building. Roache-Turner’s script sketches Charlotte’s family out to be down on their luck, under Gunter’s domineering bootheel, especially having conscripted Charlotte’s stepfather Ethan (Ryan Corr) into serving as her building maintenance peon. About 80% of the film’s drama lies with the family, including Charlotte’s so-so acceptance of Ethan in her life; the only time we see any of them truly happy is when they’re at Ethan’s drawing desk, where he shares his comic book illustrations with Charlotte.

Roache-Turner plays the in medias res game by giving us a nifty prologue to throw us on edge, then dials it back four days, showing Sting coming out of a tiny meteor for Charlotte to find and keep as a pet. Thinking Sting’s just a normal spider, she gets a rude awakening when she sees how Sting eats… and how big she’s growing. In these four days, as tensions between Charlotte’s family members and Gunter rise, Sting finds a way out of her jar habitat, secretly venturing into the air ducts to find food. And with each meal, Sting grows larger and larger, eventually becoming something you wouldn’t want to run into in the dark.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Well Go USA Entertainment, StingWētā Workshop’s spider animatronics and effects are used sparingly – a shadow here, a glimpse of Sting’s ghastly legs there, and a horrifying closeup on her detailed face – and to great effect, keeping our mental image of Sting as just a spider before Roache-Turner uses inventive means to show the bigger creature Sting has become. Little glimpses of Sting – like a shot showing her breaking out of a fish tank which cuts right at the moment of impact or seeing how she’s barely fitting in the lid of the jar – only give our minds more opportunities to frighten us and fill in the blanks with our imaginations. And when she attacks… yikes. A scene featuring a single woman (who’s implied to have lost her husband and two sons) finding Sting in her apartment becomes the stuff of nightmares – the biting attack from nowhere, poison-ridden flesh boiling, and being incapacitated while you can only feel this creature going in your mouth and down your gullet – it makes your skin crawl something fierce.

Roache-Turner also gets a good snapshot of a family in crisis – Ethan and Charlotte constantly failing at connecting, mother Heather (Penelope Mitchell) at the end of her rope with Charlotte’s crap attitude, Charlotte acting out and turning to keeping a dangerous spider as a pet, and Ethan trying to please everyone in the building (most of all, Gunter) and losing what little control he has on the situation, all on top of having an infant in the house. While the family dynamic is just as important as the spider action, the screenplay gives us enough to have a handle on motivations and relationships without drowning everything under maudlin insipidness. The conflict established in these scenes between Ethan and Charlotte match the emotion the ending wants you to feel, and not one iota more; Roache-Turner doesn’t seem to want anything competing heavily for your attention, which gives Sting a more muted, “it is what it is” feel rather than explosive fireworks and dramatics.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Well Go USA Entertainment, StingIt’s this low-keyness that gives Sting – and Sting – its bite; Kiah Roache-Turner seems to know exactly how much to exaggerate horror and drama without going overboard. Even though some of its frights are telegraphed to draw the scares out to maddening proportions, it’s all in the name of contributing to being a modest thrill ride. For sure, we’re rooting for everyone to get what they deserve – especially Gunter – but we’re also here for a reconciliation that’ll keep Charlotte and her family going. And we’re also here to see a gargantuan spider gobble some people up. Sting neither underdelivers or overpromises anything it can’t give you; it does exactly the job it sets out to do without fanfare or fuss, a compliment to its workmanlike, indie nature.

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Eddie Pasa

Eddie is a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS). Since starting in 2010 at The Rogers Revue, Eddie has written for Reel Film News (now defunct), co-founded DC Filmdom, and writes occasionally for Gunaxin. When not reviewing movies, he's spending time with his wife and children, repeat-viewing favorites on 4k or Blu-Ray, working for rebranding agency Mekanic, or playing acoustic shows and DJing across the DC/MD/VA area. Special thanks go to Jenn Carlson, Moira and Ari Pasa, Viki Nova at City Dock Digital in Annapolis, Mike Parsons, Philip Van Der Vossen, and Dean Rogers.

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