IFC Midnight



2.5 out of 52.5 out of 52.5 out of 52.5 out of 5 2.5

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In Stung, mutant wasps attack their victims with huge, phallic stingers, depositing larvae that instantaneously grow up to become insects of grotesque sizes, hatching out of humans and animals alike, shedding the gutted bodies of their hosts in a manner befitting a superfluous winter coat. It’s a telling touch, indicative of how loosely the filmmakers regard the prolonged rules of foreshadowing (and gestation) that often unofficially govern movies featuring giant critters gone wild. Stung runs on constant, pleasing overdrive, recognizing any attempts to “rationalize” giant wasps as being narratively inefficient as well as flatulent and boring. Director Benni Diez and screenwriter Adam Aresty cut right to the chase, opening on a series of romantic stoner-buddy sketches that segue disconcertingly into a siege scenario that’s deliberately reminiscent of Night of the Living Dead and Demons. The film keeps topping itself, for a long and consistent stretch, growing loonier and more free-associative. It’s the giant wasp comedy of your inner gore hound’s nightmares.

Diez and Aresty maintain a tone that’s mostly ideal for the contemporary equivalent of a drive-in movie: of reverent, parodic irreverence. The contradiction of that description underscores the challenge of achieving this atmosphere (of which Joe Dante was once a master, his throne now occupied by Edgar Wright). The wasps are menacing, the killings they commit more or less matter dramatically, but a gentle thread of self-awareness runs through Stung, heightening the playful stakes by acknowledging the genetic absurdity of the premise, which is obviously a patchwork of a variety of other movies. The wasps resemble a cross between the ants of Them! and Matinee, with the general shape of the elegant, giant humanoid cockroaches of Mimic thrown in for good measure. These creatures are the ace in the film’s sleeve, as they are wonderfully, flamboyantly unreal in a fashion that affirms the irrationality of good horror movies while rejecting the literal-mindedly fake “realism” of indifferent, mass-produced computer animation. The CGI in Stung has been wittily designed to evoke the jerky movements that one associates with stop-motion and puppet effects (which also appear to be employed), turning the lemon of probable budgetary limitations into surprisingly tactile lemonade.

These monsters serve as a correction to an issue that prevails in modern fantasy movies, including that recent overblown mediocrity, Jurassic World. The wasps are often physically palpable in relation to the actors, rather than consigned to a visibly differing plane of reality—a distinction that pivotally informs their attacks with an ick factor that’s growing less and less common to the genre. Diez and his collaborators appear to have mined all possible variations of bug-on-people killings, often highlighting the wasps’ hairy, spindly legs as they push out of a host’s mouth. Portions of human faces are occasionally shown dangling on the creatures’ feet as new organisms sprout to life. In the most ghoulish punchline, a wasp hatches out of a man’s back and stays there, only partially emerged, resembling a grotesque parrot. Stung gratifyingly reminds one of just how enjoyable a monster movie can be, if made by people with a love for the genre who are cognizant of the less savory aspects of the id.

DVD | Soundtrack
IFC Midnight
87 min
Benni Diez
Adam Aresty
Matt O'Leary, Jessica Cook, Lance Henriksen, Clifton Collins, Jr., Eve Slatner, Cecilia Pillado, Kathleen Renish