I was able to squeeze in another movie between the end of last week and the beginning of this week. Since I don’t have a ton of free time, I’ve decided to focus more on the Netflix Roulette than the revisiting of classics. I am also hoping to see current theatrical releases… but, to be honest, my schedule makes that extremely unlikely. So, I guess the end result is that I’m at the mercy of my random number generator for the foreseeable future. I am glad to say that after the last movie I had to slog through, this one wasn’t so bad… don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t great either… but it definitely had some stuff going for it… and, after nearly a year of this, I’ll count that as a win.
I ended up watching Stung, a rather old-fashioned creature-feature. The general plot: two caterers host a wake (I think) that is suddenly infested by wasps… here’s the kicker, if stung you will become infected with a larva that will, at some undetermined amount of time later (this is one of the logic issues with the film), burst from your body (instantly killing you). Mayhem ensues.
The movie was financed in Germany (and possibly shot there too)… which, is apparent for two reasons. First, half of the credits are in German. Second, a few of the extras have noticeable German accents (even when one is trying to do a Mexican accent… this leads to a strangely appealing new accent) while the rest have no lines (either to avoid having to pay them… or, more likely, because they couldn’t speak English). This really has no impact on the film, but is interesting nonetheless (at least to me). Alright, here’s the thing, is Stung a good movie… no, not even close… there are some problems with it (more on this later)… it is original? No, again… it owes a lot to a lot of movies (Aliens, in particular (more on this later as well)… but, here’s what it has going for it… it’s fun. In the end, it an old-fashioned monster movie, and it knows it. It doesn’t attempt to be something more (okay… maybe it does at times). It’s a fun (not funny (more on this in a bit)) movie.
The filmmakers (first-time writer and director Adam Aresty and Benni Diez (respectively)) did a good job at making me like the protagonists. I was also impressed with the fact that these characters traded off being the alphas. It was nice to see a movie where the two leads come to each other’s rescue at different points. At times, the writing might be a bit too cute, pithy, and on-the-nose, but when the characters were having real moments I bought it. I think this is related to the general tonal issues surrounding the film. At times it wanted to be a straight-up horror movie, while at others it danced around the comedy-horror genre. However, once it firmly planted itself in the later towards the second-half of the film I was pretty much on board. One other quick note: any horror filmmaker trying to give his or her movie instant credibility should just hire Lance Hendrickson. He was a welcomed edition to the film (or as I put it my notes “a ray of sunshine”… hmmm… interesting… probably wrote that since it’s nearly 60 degrees outside)… even if it made the Aliens references a bit more transparent (though, to be fair, they were practically translucent even without Lance).
I could just leave it there, but I think in the spirt of honesty, I can’t let you leave thinking this is a good movie… again, it is fun and enjoyable, but pretty mediocre once you sit down and watch it. It falls prey to some pretty common horror-movie clichés of the 21st century (i.e. a remote location, no phone reception, lost car keys etc. (though, to be fair, I hit some of the same roadblocks in the script I wrote last year, and I couldn’t come up with anything better… so, who am I to judge (alternate title for the blog)). Remember that weird tonal shift I referred to earlier? I think a lot of that has to do with the creatures. At the beginning of the film the insects are big, but still a realistic size for insects. While not all of us are afraid of bugs, I would argue that most find them at least unsettling (I fall somewhere between these two camps). The first part of this film plays on that. These wasps are nasty looking… but, also something you could possibly encounter on a walk. Add to this the fact that the film is relatively low budget and obviously couldn’t afford too much CGI (they clearly saved this for the second half of the film… woof) and the filmmakers had to rely on showing only quick glimpses of the creatures and the use of sound design and I think this actually played to creepiness of the movie. There were a couple of scenes that had my skin crawling… we’ve all known the sound of a flying bug that’s so big it has a face. It starts to go off the rails a bit, though, when the bugs mutate to human size. While there are plenty of scenes that use practical effects (in the form of puppets) the film begins to lean too heavily of CGI effects that border on SyFi-channel levels (hey, remember when it used to be called SciFi before they tried to hipster it up). Plus, there’s weirdly something less creepy about giant bugs… maybe because you can see them coming?
Let me end with three quick observations. First, the guy who plays Sydney is… problematic. I honestly thought it must have been a non-actor (like the writer or director)… I was wrong… he is an established actor (here’s his IMDB page to prove it: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0004286/?ref_=tt_cl_t4). That being said, he does weirdly grow on you (or at least me)… so, I guess he’s doing something right. Second, they of course end up explaining the origin of the bugs and man is it unbelievable lame… I wish they had just left it alone. Sometimes the scariest monsters are those that have no explanation. Finally, I enjoyed the final scene of the movie… more than I probably should have… but, I think they earned it.
Again… a fun movie, with little to nothing else going on. Well, that’s it for today. You may see another post before the end of the week… though, no promises.