The Movie Waffler First Look Review - STING | The Movie Waffler

First Look Review - STING

Sting review
The residents of a Brooklyn brownstone are terrorised by a spider from space.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Kiah Roache-Turner

Starring: Alyla Browne, Ryan Corr, Penelope Mitchell, Robyn Nevin, Noni Hazlehurst, Jermaine Fowler

Sting poster

Kiah Roache-Turner, the writer/director of the cult Australian post-apocalyptic Wyrmwood franchise tells a more intimate story but with notably more resources with creature feature Sting. Working with New Zealand's famed WETA workshop, Roache-Turner's latest has all the slickness of a Hollywood Blumhouse production, but with a bit more depth to its characters and more thought given to its scares.

Though shot on sets in Australia, Sting plays out in one of those famous Brooklyn brownstone buildings. When a small egg falls out of the heavens and lands through a window in said building, a tiny spider hatches (insert David Bowie pun). The creature is found by Charlotte (Alyla Browne), a rebellious 12-year-old who likes to sneak into her neighbours' apartments through the air vents. The building is owned by Charlotte's German grandmother Gunter (Robyn Nevin), a stern woman who lives with her senile sister Helga (Noni Hazlehurst). Charlotte lives with her mother Heather (Penelope Mitchell), her stepdad Ethan (Ryan Corr) and her infant brother Liam.

Sting review

Charlotte's home life is somewhat fraught thanks to Ethan's struggles to progress in his career as a comic book artist. Forced to work as Gunter's janitor to pay the rent, Ethan is left little time to work on his comics. This has put a strain on his relationship with Heather, who fears he's set to walk away like her previous husband, whom Charlotte still naively adores.

Roache-Turner takes a lot of time to explore this family dynamic. He clearly wants the audience to be invested in his characters so we care what happens to them when the inevitable monster munch begins. There's a fine balance to be struck in movies like this however, and in this case we're arguably given a little more family drama than is necessary. There's a stretch in the middle of the film where you almost forget you're watching a movie about a space spider, so preoccupied Sting becomes with the relationship between Charlotte and her stepdad, and it's past the hour mark of this 90 minute movie before the arachnid action really kicks in.

Sting review

Kudos though to Roache-Turner for giving us two protagonists in Charlotte and Ethan who aren't easy for the audience to warm to. Charlotte behaves like a spoiled brat who is constantly unfavourably comparing her new dad to the one who walked out on her. Ethan suffers from a sense of self-entitlement that at one point is unleashed in a fit of rage that sees him put his fist through a TV screen. Australian horror movies tend to be willing to go to dark places their Hollywood cousins shy away from, and that's the case once again here. It's credit to the talents of Browne and Corr that we end up rooting for Charlotte and Ethan once their family is placed in danger, as they make their troubles feel humanly relatable, and their late bonding amid danger is genuinely heartfelt.

It's just a shame that so little time is devoted to the monster, which Charlotte names "Sting," and which grows considerably each time it feeds. Beginning with various pets, the spider's appetite leads it onto human prey as it grows to the size of a small horse. Roache-Turner finds clever ways to mine our fear of creepy crawlies. In its initial miniature form, we wince as the spider crawls perilously close to unsuspecting human hands. When it later becomes an absolute unit Roache-Turner films his monster as though it's a xenomorph from the Alien franchise. There are a couple of moments that can only be viewed as blatant homages (or rip-offs if you're feeling less kind) to Ridley Scott and James Cameron's first two entries in that series.

Sting review

For horror fans the big complaint about Sting will likely be the lack of gory set-pieces. There's really only one onscreen death, but it's a satisfying old school use of rubbery effects work. For the most part we only see the results of Sting's rampage through the building. If you're expecting an apartment based gorefest along the lines of Demons 2 or the recent Evil Dead Rise, you may find Sting's lack of bloodletting frustrating. But compared to the average modern creature feature, Sting is a welcome return to the reverence shown for such films in the Amblin era. There's none of the bad CG and ironic snark you find in most of today's monster movies, and it's clear Roache-Turner is a fan of this sort of stuff. Following Talk To Me and Late Night with the Devil, it seems Australian horror is having a renaissance, delivering the sort of fun thrills Hollywood horror seems to have largely forsaken in recent years.

Sting is in US cinemas from April 12th and UK/ROI cinemas from May 31st.

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