Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Not So Itsy: Sting (2024) Review

Director: Kiah Roache-Turner

Notable Cast: Ryan Corr, Alyla Browne, Penelope Mitchell, Robyn Nevin, Noni Hazlehurst, Jermaine Fowler, Silvia Colloca, Danny Kim

As long as I can remember, I've always really loved horror. Both films and books, or even games, for that matter. It's just a genre that is ever expansive and there are so many ways to enjoy it, and just as many possibilities on sub-genres and the themes spread throughout the many mediums that have represented all things spooky. I like my horror in a multitude of different ways and gravitate towards extremely serious stuff, but I also like lower-budgeted outings and schlock from the many decades that the genre has existed within cinema (since the beginning, really). So, when I heard there was a big spider creature feature launching in 2024 in cinemas, I knew I had to seek it out. My expectations were actually non-existent, as I really knew nothing apart from the fantastic and effective poster (the one displayed above this opening), and I am so glad it was that way. You essentially get an apartment building in New York that is snowed in due to a really bad winter storm. Our tenants are not many, but more on that later. We have a core family of four, and the daughter has taken in a mysterious pet spider, and let's just say, this spider isn't your average arachnid. He grows by eating, and the bigger he eats, the bigger he gets. Let the creepy crawly chaos commence!

The plotting here is thin, but it is not detrimental to the film's overall quality. It knows the audience wants a fun, gooey spider kill fest, and it certainly delivers. It isn't action-packed from start to finish but opens with a bang and proceeds to focus on this family. We have a mother, her daughter (Charlotte, our leading lady), her stepfather Ethan (these two are the main focus), and the couple's newborn baby. The family is dysfunctional, and the film explores these relationships quite well. We get a lot of time, about half of the film, to focus on the family and how they interact. The fissure between Ethan and Charlotte is relatively strong, but you can tell they care about one another, and the two share a passion for art and comic books in particular. These little splashes of personality and the dialogue that helps you get behind everyone when the spit hits the fan... I don't know, I tried. The mother, Heather, is maybe the weakest character of the bunch in terms of how much depth is explored, but the heart of Sting is really about breaking down and rebuilding a relationship between a father and his daughter. It's not hard to tell where things will end up, but it is done with a great sense of sincerity and brings a humanist element lacking in particular horror films, especially ones of this nature.

For a film about a big-ass spider, the tone of the broken family can be quite somber. Still, there is levity that arises from the other characters in the film, such as one particularly odd tenant who is fascinated with animals and the exterminator who is called to investigate strange noises named Frank, who is played with an infectious sense of humor by Jermaine Fowler. It's that humor that I was nervous about initially that kept me laughing and smiling throughout. It brings a lot of character to the front, and great gags come about because of it. It's this excellent juggling act of the comedic and the dramatic, and for the most part, it absolutely nails both. For those looking for a crazy spider movie, you certainly get that here just the film wisely takes its time to establish strong connections with our leading players and ends up benefiting from it considerably during the final act, when things get wild, and oh do they ever.

The spider itself, the titular Sting, is a fascinating creature. I don't want to spoil his origin, but it is super simple and not really explored past the initial reveal. It is very fun and allows for things to be fantastical and lets the audience go along with it from the get-go, which again is a great move on the director's part. The spider starts out as a typical household spider that each of us has encountered more times than we would like to in our lives, and as things progress and Charlotte begins to feed Sting, he begins to evolve quite rapidly. Again, it is easy to see where it is all going to lead, but things are still intense as can be and keep the thrills and laughs coming in equal measures. Some of the kills are revealed by way of the aftermath image, which is grotesque and at times brutal to look at, but we do see the spider in action plenty of times, and there is one death in particular in a bathroom that left my jaw hanging. I love that things continue to escalate further and further, and there are never any lulls once things heat up. I couldn't get enough of what I was seeing and can only hope the film sees enough success to green-light a sequel because it certainly warrants itself for more entries. Oh, and for those who love technical stuff, the spider is put to screen using many techniques, ranging from special effects to animatronics, and all of it is glorious.

Although there aren't many characters, I did not cover them all here, but they are all great and interesting in their own ways. It is a film that feels small in scale, but that close-knit nature elevates the material and allows for even the apartment itself to feel like a character. Sting is an absolute blast of a creature feature and will absolutely land itself among the greatest killer spider films out there. I know people hate hearing this, but I think this has the makings of a cult classic. 

I had a ton of fun and cannot wait to revisit this when it inevitably comes to home media. It has some warts but proudly wears its heart on its sleeve, and that shows. You can feel the passion in every frame, and every so often, if you listen close enough, you can hear an Aussie accent breakthrough in a performance, which I say endearingly as I live for these things. What an absolute blast of a horror film. If you can stomach creepy spiders, which I admittedly struggle with, then Sting is sure to wrap you up in its webs and not let go. Strong recommendation!

Written by Josh Parmer

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