Scream Factory is primarily known for releasing classics from years past on Blu-ray and DVD, but every now and then they release newer films and such is the case with Stung from director Benni Diez. Diez has done a number of shorts and worked on visual effects for a handful of films including Lars von Trier’s
Melancholia, but Stung is his first stab at directing a feature. Our very own Trace Thurman reviewed Stung some months back and he wasn’t the biggest fan. He made some good points that I absolutely agree with, but overall he was a bit too harsh on what I found to be an enjoyable little flick.
The movie gets to it pretty quickly. Ms. Perch (Eve Slatner) is holding a fancy dinner party in her garden. It’s a party she hosts every summer and this year it is dedicated to her late husband who worked in the pharmaceutical industry. Handling the catering for the party is a small company run by Julia (Jessica Cook) and Paul (Matt O’Leary). At first this party is exactly how you’d expect it to be – a bunch of hoity-toity white people boozing it up. Then a wasp shows up which just seems annoying at first but then becomes deadly once it begins to sting people and turn them into giant, freak mutant wasps. Other than that though, good party.
Trace’s biggest issue with Stung was that he thought the film took itself too seriously. I think I disagree with that. I think the film embraces it’s overall silliness quite a bit, particularly with the character of Sydney, played by a wonderful Clifton Collins, Jr. Sydney is an obvious pothead who appears to have some weird issues with his parents. He’s the son of Ms. Perch and you can tell he never quite lived up to what his parents, his deceased father specifcally, had envisioned in their son. Sydney is such a bizarre character. He sort of feels like a Fred Armisen character. He’s sort of likable at times, but mostly just a creep. He also turns out to be somewhat responsible for the mutations of the wasps. Apparently he used some of his father’s hormone growth medicine and injected into the soil to help the plants grow better. The plants were consumed by the wasps and now here we are.
I actually think Stung missed out on an opportunity for some good social commentary by not being serious enough in a way. There was a good opportunity to speak on the issue of society as a whole being over medicated. Not only would this have giving the film a stronger message, it would have made it a little more aligned with some of the old Roger Corman creature features from back in the day. The movies were obvsiouly very shlocky, but they always had a message about society. Had Stung borrowed some elements from Corman’s The Wasp Woman this could have been a more successful venture. Instead the whole bit about Sydney giving the hormone’s to the soil is just barely mentioned, sort of like they were just trying to give as brief an explanation for the mutations as possible.
Stung suffers from some pretty poor CGI to begin with, but thankfully it doesn’t last too long. Once the wasp begin to bite people, leading to giant wasps ripping out of the bodies of the bitten, the practical effects swing into high gear and they all look really awesome. The scene with the first swarm attacking is really well done. Kudos to the makeup team led by Meike Gfrörer.
The pacing is a little weird. At times the movie feels like it’s flying by and then it comes to a crashing hault. Then it picks up the pace again only to slow back down. It’s weird. I’ve never felt like a movie was going by quickly and slowly at the same time before. I’m going to chalk this up to Diez being a first time director. These are the type of things that always take time and practice before you can actually master it.
O’Leary and Cook do a very nice job as our leads and love interests. I think they had great chemistry and clicked on screen quite well. Both are pretty much newcomers to the game but I wouldn’t be surprised to see both popping up in a lot of things over the next few years.
All in all I think Stung is flawed, but fun. It missed the opportunity to be something more, but it certainly gets the job done. I for one am glad Scream Factory is releasing more indie efforts like this that might otherwise get lost in the shuffle. Hopefully they continue to do so.
Stung is now available on Blu-ray from Scream Factory.