“A fancy garden party turns into upper class prey when a colony of killer wasps mutates into seven foot tall predators” runs the synopsis for Benjamin ‘Benni’ Diez’s Stung – just in case you were thinking that it sounded like a radical late-career change of direction for Terrence Malick. Read any further, and you’re basically registering an interest in watching a film about seven foot wasps attacking posh people. You have been warned.
I wanted to like Stung. I really did. The synopsis is a hoot, Justin Erickson’s poster illustration is a thing of beauty, and I count the presence of Clifton Collins Jr. and Lance Henriksen among the cast as positives. But almost as soon as it begins, you realise that there are at least two more annoying things than wasps in the world: namely Paul and Julia, the caterers (played by Matt O’Leary and Jessica Cook) who are the lead characters in Diez’s film. Then, one by one, we are introduced to the rest of the cast, and with the exception of Collins Jr.’s Sydney, each is more annoying than the last.
Inept writing, lazy plotting and iffy acting (again, excepting Collins Jr., who is a delight) are just some of the elements that spoil Stung as surely as wasps spoil a summer picnic. It’s a pity, too, because the creature effects in Stung are a lot of fun – at least, the practical ones are. (The less said about the CG ones the better.) Diez’s seven-foot mutant wasps look like they just crawled (or flew) out of a cheeseball VHS movie, dripping with goop and lit with coloured gels last seen in the late 1980s. When the insects are attacking, the film comes alive; but in the lulls between the action, the bad dialogue, inane characters and awful acting sends the film into a tailspin.
Film festival audiences might have fun with Stung, but in any other context this is a film asking for a hefty bash with a rolled-up newspaper.