As someone who grew up watching creature features (usually courtesy of Elvira’s Movie Macabre), I absolutely had a blast with Benni Diaz’s recent killer wasp romp, Stung. Part old-school critter camp, part new-school mentality, the horror comedy features some incredible special effects, tons of great gore and wickedly fun kills, as well as a strong script from Adam Aresty that does an excellent job balancing out the humor and horror of the situation. Stung never strays too far from its B-movie roots and perfectly celebrates everything fans enjoy about these types of films with an infectious enthusiasm.
Stung starts off rather innocently, as we follow Julia (Jessica Cook) and her co-worker Paul (Matt O’Leary) who are on their way to cater a swanky backyard party where they’re hoping to impress their upscale clientele. Everything goes as planned until a swarm of mutant killer wasps show up to wreck the festivities—and not just with a couple of nasty bites or stings, either. These wasps attack their prey, insert larvae into their human hosts, and moments later an oversized creature bursts forth (think the chestburster scene in Alien but much bigger), leaving shredded corpses in their wake.
Julia and Paul make it to safety inside the property’s large mansion, accompanied by a few of the party guests, including Mayor Caruthers (Lance Henriksen) and a socially awkward hunchback by the name of Sydney (Clifton Collins Jr.). Thinking they’ve found safety, the oversized insects soon locate the survivors’ hiding place and the group must band together and find a way to stop the creatures before it’s too late.
An ambitious low-budget gem, Stung has everything you could want out of a movie where gigantic wasps are birthed through human beings, and much more. Aresty’s script keeps its self-awareness firmly in check, always balancing out the humor and the terror of the situation in equal doses. Stung also has some heart to it as well, as a potential love story between Julia and Paul is consistently teased throughout the film and gives our two main characters some real stakes beyond just merely surviving their ordeal.
The practical wasp effects, created by Josh Head, provide Stung with a real, menacing threat despite the outlandish premise of the creatures, and while the film does rely on some visual effects work to fully realize Diaz’s vision for his movie monsters, the two mediums come together rather nicely (especially considering the budget at play here). Also, I must tip my hat to Stung’s production design, as the attention to detail throughout the film certainly makes Diaz’s feature film debut feel much bigger than most movies made at the same budgetary level.
Both Cook and O’Leary carry Stung confidently, especially once the proverbial wasp poop hits the fan and gives the duo a chance to add some physicality and heightened emotions to their respective performances. Henriksen is also a delight as an alcoholic mayor and Collins Jr. (Pacific Rim, Hellbenders) does such weirdly enigmatic work in Stung that I wish we had gotten to spend more time with him in the film’s third act once he undergoes a bit of a "transformation" that’s as gruesome as it is hysterical to look at.
What I really appreciate about Stung is that it decidedly bucks this recent trend of creature features being far too silly or campy to ever be taken seriously (hello, Sharknado) and does its own thing by paying homage to the old school monster flicks that paved the way and making sure it never dumbs things down for viewers just for the sake of being campy. Diaz’s film excels at keeping both tensions high and its sense of humor intact, proving that a lot of ingenuity and heart can go a long way in the world of indie filmmaking.
Movie Rating: 3.5 / 5