Sting (2024)

Sting Review

Sting (2024)

Sting, a horror heist film with a modest scale that puts a flesh-eating spider against a few Brooklynites, is only 91 minutes long including seven for closing credits. It feels, however, like it could have used a few more there’s so many underdeveloped characters and animal attack scenes crammed into this slick genre exercise that everything comes off rushed. Not that something like this can be overinflated for too long without collapsing under its own weight (or budget), but an extra 15-20 minutes wouldn’t have hurt this Spielbergian creature feature boasting creature effects by Wētā Workshop (the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy). The folks behind Sting, led by writer/director Kiah Roache -Turner (“Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead”), sure have seen a lot of movies; unfortunately, their cinephilia doesn’t translate to good cheap thrills or crowd-pleasing adventure drama.

Like all post-Amblin entertainments worth their salt, Sting spends a lot of time focusing on the nuclear family dynamic before becoming just another When Animals Attack picture. Ethan (Ryan Corr) is your average post-Spielberg dad in crisis: His fatal flaw is that he wears too many hats metaphorically speaking. He’s also the literal superintendent for a Brooklyn apartment run by cheap/questionably accented slum-lady Gunter (Robyn Nevin), as well as a working-class comic book artist with upward mobility.

For his comics’ sake, Ethan draws from angsty preteen Charlotte (Alyla Browne), daughter of exasperated partner Heather (Penelope Mitchell). Ethan cares but doesn’t know how to handle being provider/working stiff at once; typically manageable problems start piling up fast most notably some kind of vermin infestation in Gunter’s building and an emotional distance growing between him and Charlotte. No grown-up can help unburden Ethan, not even Frank (Jermaine Fowler), an aggrieved wisecracking exterminator. Enter Charlotte, the film’s most sympathetic character, if only because she’s the one whose every dramatic/situational beat is visible from space.

You don’t have to like Charlotte to care about the scenes where she first befriends and then hunts down Sting, a pet spider who crash-lands on earth in an asteroid the size of a ping-pong ball. Sting gets bigger as the movie goes along but he doesn’t do much more than present a general menace; she could just have easily been smitten/repulsed by an irradiated field mouse or man-eating toilet ‘gator. That it’s a spider named Sting doesn’t mean anything either, strange as it may seem given how much time Charlotte and others spend crawling around Gunter’s building via elaborate air vent tunnels you’d think there’d be more to say about spiderwebs and family life in a story about an overtaxed dad and underappreciated daughter. But nope.

Sting doesn’t really have anything else on its mind regarding Ethan and Charlotte’s relationship beyond their conventionally-driven reconciliation; Wētā makes her spider look about as good as giant black widow ever could but even that feels like wasted effort when all you get is just … well … a black spider with small red vertical dash running down its back? Really? I mean sure, competent but generic threats aren’t exactly monster movie Kryptonite; they’re still only so interesting as long as characters remain stock types while monster-centric scenes prove too short/not even paced right enough for being suspenseful or gross out funny

Mostly, the spider webs, bodily fluids, and gore effects succeed anyway because they don’t need much set-up or development. But everything that requires the Spielberg touch feels light and indistinct. Even the schtickiest elements of the movie feel sketchy. Like, why isn’t there more or better material for Gunter’s forgetful sister Helga (Noni Hazelhurst), the first character in the movie to spot Charlotte’s pet? Ditto for Frank, a beleaguered side character played by a diligent performer. These characters are clearly meant to be likable but too many scenes and one-liners and plot points feel careless when they should be built up to with Spielberg-ian rigor. Otherwise, why wouldn’t audience members think of other, better monster movies?

It is not an automatic demerit to copy Spielberg and his successors but you do have to be patient enough to have studied their technique too. “Sting” often feels like a movie made by enthusiastic but careless fans. The laugh lines “Why didn’t you get a ****ing dog?!” aren’t mounted with enough comic buildup or suspense. And the action scenes usually start and stop without enough grace or energy to them feel momentous.

During a representatively busy but unconvincing chase sequence Eric wheezes as he climbs up a vertical air vent. You can imagine why Dad’s out of breath but there’s insufficient proof of his efforts on screen. We’re not given enough time to either luxuriate in dread or develop feelings for Eric and his family which makes the fast scenes too slow and the slower scenes too quick for my taste buds anyway! “Sting” has a lot of the right ideas but not enough inspiration to string them all together!

Watch Sting For Free On Gomovies.

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