April 11, 2024
By: Daniel Schwartz | April 11th, 2024

STING had all the ingredients to become a classic creature feature, a potent concoction guaranteed to thrill. A rebellious young girl, Charlotte, with her simmering resentment and outsider status, provides a perfect vessel for the audience's anxieties. The terrifyingly oversized arachnid, with its venomous fangs and hunger for flesh, is the embodiment of primal fear. And let's not forget the claustrophobic setting of an apartment building – its shadowy hallways, cramped spaces, and potential hiding spots for a nightmarish creature – a perfect stage for escalating terror. Every element is perfectly positioned for heart-pounding suspense and unforgettable scares that will linger long after the credits roll. Yet, despite the promise of these ingredients and an undeniably strong lead performance from Ryan Corr, "Sting" unfortunately falters. Its pacing is disjointed, like uneven footsteps in the dark. Worse still, the film seems overly fixated on a trite family drama, diluting the focus that should remain squarely on the horrifying thrill of the creature.

The film opens with Charlotte (Alyla Browne), a twelve-year-old misfit whose world is turned upside down by her mother's new boyfriend, Ethan (Ryan Corr). Charlotte, resentful of her new stepfather, finds solace in a peculiar spider egg she discovers. What hatches, of course, is no ordinary spider. With a rapidly increasing appetite for blood, 'Sting' becomes an unnerving force of nature and a metaphor for Charlotte's adolescent rage.

Ryan Corr's portrayal of Ethan in STING showcases his versatility and depth as an actor, as he skillfully navigates Ethan's internal conflict and emotional journey amidst the growing chaos surrounding Charlotte and her monstrous companion. Corr brings a relatable humanity to Ethan, grounding the film's fantastical elements with authenticity and vulnerability. Through subtle shifts in expression and body language, Corr effectively conveys Ethan's struggle to protect his family while grappling with his feelings of frustration and helplessness. His performance adds a layer of emotional resonance to the exploration of familial dynamics and trauma, elevating the film and enriching its thematic depth.

STING indeed captivates with its effective use of special effects, particularly in bringing the titular spider to life. Director Kiah Roache-Turner ("Wyrmwood") demonstrates a remarkable attention to detail and a genuine affection for the creature feature genre. The design of the oversized arachnid is both grotesque and mesmerizing, blending seamlessly between CGI and practical effects to create a creature that elicits both fear and fascination. The deliberate movements of the spider, as it stalks its prey through the claustrophobic corridors of the apartment building, are masterfully executed, heightening the sense of suspense and unease. Roache-Turner's skillful direction infuses these scenes with a palpable sense of dread, showcasing the spider as a relentless and formidable antagonist. It's in these moments of tension and terror that "Sting" truly shines, immersing audiences in a chilling and unforgettable cinematic experience. Despite the film's flaws, the strength of its special effects and creature design is undeniable, ensuring that "Sting" leaves a lasting impression on fans of the genre.

However, where STING stumbles is in its pacing and its insistence on injecting manufactured drama amidst the creature horror. The first half of the film crawls along as we see a monotonous cycle of Charlotte isolating herself, Ethan making awkward attempts at connecting, and the spider steadily growing larger. While the intention of exploring themes like familial acceptance, loneliness, and responsibility has potential, the execution is clumsy and overwrought. Scenes that should prioritize building tension and a sense of creeping dread feel bloated with melodramatic dialogue and flat character interactions. For example, instead of a subtly unnerving scene where Ethan attempts to bond with a withdrawn Charlotte, we witness a lengthy and clichéd argument where their resentments boil over into shouting accusations. These moments disrupt the creature feature's flow, replacing the anticipatory suspense of a growing unseen threat with predictable domestic squabbles.

Even when the action does pick up, the sense of urgency is diminished by repetitive chases through the apartment building and poorly executed attempts at humor that undermine the terror. The claustrophobic setting of the apartment complex should create a heart-pounding sense of inescapable danger, but instead, the same chase sequences repeat themselves – up and down stairwells, through drab hallways, and occasionally, into someone's cluttered living room. These moments lose their impact with each repetition. What's more, ill-timed jokes and quips interrupt the building tension, deflating the scares. The supporting cast, while adequate, is given paper-thin characters that offer little to the overall experience. We have the archetypes – the nosy neighbor, the clueless maintenance worker, and the disbelieving friend. They each have a few scenes to react to the situation before, predictably, meeting their ends at the claws of Sting. It's a missed opportunity to add complexity or a sense of how this creature affects the wider community within the building.

In the climactic moments of STING, Ryan Corr's portrayal of Ethan reaches its zenith, showcasing the actor's impressive range and emotional depth. As the tension mounts and the stakes escalate, Corr's performance as Ethan undergoes a transformative evolution, capturing the character's raw vulnerability and unyielding determination with striking authenticity. In the final showdown against the monstrous arachnid, Corr channels Ethan's fight-or-flight instincts with palpable intensity, delivering a riveting performance that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats. However, despite Corr's commendable efforts, the climax ultimately falls short of delivering the cathartic release expected from a well-executed creature feature. The resolution feels rushed and lacking in emotional payoff, leaving audiences yearning for a more satisfying conclusion to the harrowing ordeal. While Corr's performance adds gravitas to the film's uneven narrative, it ultimately cannot compensate for the shortcomings of the film's pacing and tonal inconsistencies. As a result, "Sting" fails to fully capitalize on its potential as a gripping creature feature, leaving viewers with a lingering sense of disappointment rather than the adrenaline-fueled satisfaction they had hoped for.

STING offers a mixed bag of strengths and weaknesses that ultimately shape its cinematic experience. Undoubtedly, aficionados of creature features will find solace in the film's practical effects and well-executed jump scares. The intricate design of the titular arachnid and its relentless pursuit of prey serve as compelling elements that cater to the genre's enthusiasts. Moreover, Ryan Corr's portrayal of Ethan injects a sense of gravitas into the narrative, grounding the film amidst its tumultuous blend of horror and familial drama. Corr's ability to seamlessly transition between exasperation and determination adds depth to the character, providing a relatable anchor amidst the film's fantastical elements. However, despite these commendable aspects, "Sting" falls short of achieving its full potential due to its sluggish pacing and narrative imbalance. The film's insistence on interweaving manufactured drama with creature horror detracts from its overall impact, leaving viewers yearning for a more cohesive and immersive experience. While "Sting" possesses moments of intrigue and suspense, its failure to strike a harmonious balance between these disparate elements prevents it from leaving a lasting impression. In the end, while the film may deliver a bite, it lacks the potent venom necessary to truly captivate and enthrall its audience, ultimately rendering it a forgettable addition to the creature feature genre.

In short, STING is a mixed bag – a blend of impressive visuals and a compelling lead performance trapped inside a film that lacks the sharp focus and pacing required for a thoroughly satisfying horror experience.

STING is in Theaters on April 12th, 2024.

Rating: 2.25 out of 5
Daniel SchwartzDaniel Schwartz (Contributor) is a New Jersey native who loves watching movies. His favorite genres include action, comedies, and sci-fi.

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