NOVEMBER 2, 2015
I've said on numerous occasions that a full scale monster movie revival is long overdue, but as long as we get a movie like Stung every now and then, I guess I can make peace with the lack of a glut of such things - quality over quantity, in other words. Stung isn't exactly the Jaws of killer wasp movies (actually, it might be by default, but you know what I mean), but it does more right than wrong, offers a fun Lance Henriksen turn, and gives you two lead characters that are likable and worth rooting for, in an era where having just one seems to be too herculean a task for many modern filmmakers. To me, that's a win, even if the movie isn't really doing anything particularly new.
Let's go back to Lance for a second. Certainly he's taken a number of paychecks over the years, including in other killer bug movies like In The Spider's Web, so his presence doesn't exactly guarantee confidence (beyond "at least Lance's scenes were good", of course). But I was delighted to see that this is the rare movie that actually has him lightening up, even cracking jokes once or twice - he's not the usual hardass authority figure or shady human villain, he's just a small town mayor who rolls his eyes at the sort of crap he's forced to do as mayor. It's the sort of role you could see someone like Bruce Davison or John Heard playing, which isn't often the case for Lance's characters. He also lasts quite a while; it's not spoiling anything to say he dies, but again, we've all seen a number of these movies where he's only in it for like 5-10 minutes, but here it's actually one of the fuller roles I've seen him have in a long time*. His reaction to the wasp outbreak is incredible, too - he just glares at them as if it was a normal annoyance, then grabs his drink and calmly makes his way to safety while everyone panics around him. It's pretty much how I expect the actual Lance Henriksen would react to zombies or whatever might kill us all someday.
But the real heroes are played by Matt O'Leary (Sorority Row represent!) and Jessica Cook, as a pair of caterers for the party where all the shit goes down. O'Leary is pretty great in the role; he's introduced as a sort of slacker/klutz type, but proves to be capable when the wasps attack, earning the respect of his boss (Cook) and Lance in equal measure. Cook is also quite charming, and I like that they seem to save each others lives in equal measures (she might even have one up on him), instead of having one be the alpha dog. I don't want to see him rescue her over and over, but I suspect I'd be just as annoyed/bored if they were trying to "play against expectations" by having her constantly saving his life and be the real alpha - both have flaws and both are equally heroic, and it works perfectly.
Less perfect is the script's lack of patience - I talk a lot about these three because they're all the movie gives us within 15 minutes or so of the wasp outbreak. Sure, you expect a good chunk of the anonymous/minor cast to eat it so we can focus on 6-8 people, but screenwriter Adam Aresty only gives us about 5 minutes or so of that group before 3 of them are killed within seconds of each other, giving the rest of the movie not much to work with when it comes to attacks and kill scenes. Sure, the quick deaths come as a shock when they occur - but at what cost? Suspense gets deflated quite a bit after all this, especially when you know Lance will die too. I liked the movie, but I suspect I'd REALLY like it if there were more characters to bounce off each other throughout the 2nd and part of the 3rd act. I mean, you know who is gonna make it to the credits right off the bat, but that's no excuse for wiping out everyone else so quickly.
At least the kills look good, at times great. Alas, CGI wasps are employed on the regular, but they DO have a practical one to use when possible, and it works pretty great, plus makes the CGI ones easier to forgive. The computer wasps don't even look that bad, to be honest, but it's the fact that they were at least using a flesh and fake-blood one when they could that really won me over. And there are some smaller ones that are practical, at least when squished - they produce this flytrap-esque gluey substance that must have been torture on the actors, and it looks fantastic. Plus there are some surprisingly gory kills, including an eyeball bit that Fulci would applaud. The wasps also kind of nest inside their human victims, so there are some fun bits where legs or the head come bursting out of a dummy corpse - good stuff.
Scream Factory/IFC's Blu-ray has some solid extras, though I would advise skipping the production blogs as they were designed for the web and probably far less obnoxious if viewed once a week instead of all at once. Plus they repeat a lot of the info (and even some footage) on the more typical making of, so just watch that for your behind the scenes fix. And definitely listen to the commentary with Aresty, director Benni Diez, and producer Benjamin Munz as they point out some of the film's minor glitches (such as the very European looking truck that the heroes drive in this New York-set, Germany-shot film), heap praise on the actors, and generally give off a fun vibe that matches the film's. Everyone clearly had their heart in the right place, making it easy to forgive the pacing snafu. It might occasionally feel like a glorified Syfy Original Movie, but really - if those things were even half as good as this on the regular, then "Syfy Original Movie" wouldn't be something we used as a putdown.
What say you?
*Weirdly enough, a few days later I saw another one that had more Lance than expected - but unfortunately it was Harbinger Down, which wasn't a very good movie. That said, at least Lance's scenes were good.