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spooky space spider throws a monster-sized tantrum

May 14th, 2024

A not-so-itsy-bitsy spider stalks a Brooklyn brownstone in this cheap and fear-full creature feature. Directed by Kiah Roache-Turner, whose Wyrmwood zombie movies have gathered a cult following, Sting is derivative but fitfully gripping. Crucially, it’s also good fun: with a main protagonist named Charlotte (lolz), there’s definitely a knowingness to proceedings.

In a hooky pre-credits sequence, we see wisecracking pest control guy Frank (Jermaine Fowler) arriving at a dingy building in a blizzard. Eventually, he’s buzzed in by Helga (Noni Hazlehurst), an elderly woman who seems to be suffering from memory loss. Her apartment is being plagued by unexplained thumping noises – could it be rats? – but when Frank traces the ruckus to an air duct, he’s dragged in to it by something much, much bigger.

After this promising opening, Roache-Turner spools back to four days earlier and the pace falters a bit. After arriving from outer space on a comet (yes, really), a tiny alien spider winds up in an unremarkable Brooklyn building. Here, she’s discovered by 12-year-old Charlotte (Alyla Browne), who puts her in a bell jar and names her Sting. Soon it becomes clear that this is no standard arachnid: Sting is growing at an unnatural rate and can mimic certain animal sounds. A little later, Charlotte’s nerdy neighbour Erik (Danny Kim) will point out that spiders aren’t supposed to have vocal cords.

New horror ‘Sting’ hits cinemas on May 31. CREDIT: STUDIOCANAL

The film’s emotional beats are familiar but effectively rolled out. Smart Charlotte is surly and slightly withdrawn, probably because her mum Heather (Penelope Mitchell) and stepdad Ethan (Ryan Corr) are frazzled from work and bringing up her baby brother. Heather’s plate is also full because she’s caring for Helga (remember?), her mother, who lives in the apartment above with a penny-pinching sister called Gunter (Robyn Nevin). Eccentric and acid-tongued, Gunter could almost have wandered in from an old Grande Dame Guignol horror flick. It’s a fun touch that matches Sting‘s quirky, campy production design.

In fact, the entire film unfolds in the same grand but dilapidated apartment building with only a few exterior shots for context. Presumably budget was a factor – production actually took place in downtown Sydney – but the pervasive sense of claustrophobia also ratchets up the tension. As Sting gobbles up a sozzled neighbour and skulks the air ducts looking for her next victim, she keeps on growing until she looks truly gruesome. Realised using a blend of practical puppetry and CGI, this spider isn’t so much a creepy-crawly as a repulsive stomper.

Roache-Turner also slips in some nifty visual gags and false jump scares. This isn’t quite enough to make Sting feel like a minor classic, but this film will catch you in its web as it scuttles to a squelchy climax. And you’ll probably leave the cinema checking the air vents for anything out of the ordinary.

Details

  • Director: Kiah Roache-Turner
  • Starring: Alyla Browne, Jermaine Fowler, Ryan Corr
  • Release date: May 31 (in UK cinemas)
This content was originally sourced and posted at NME »
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