Sting Targets the Arachnophobe in All of Us

Photo courtesy of Well Go USA

I hate spiders. With a burning passion. I hate all bugs, but spiders are the worst. There’s just something about them that grosses me out in the worst way possible, so like any self-respecting arachnophobic horror fan, I’ve been dying to see Sting ever since I first heard about it. I couldn’t wait to confront my biggest fear head-on, but after finally getting the chance to watch the movie, I’m sad to report that it’s a huge disappointment.

Sting was written and directed by Kiah Roache-Turner, and it stars Ryan Corr, Alyla Browne, Penelope Mitchell, Robyn Nevin, and Noni Hazelhurst. In the film, a young girl named Charlotte lives in an apartment with her mother Heather, her baby brother, and her stepfather Ethan. Charlotte also enjoys snooping on her neighbors by crawling through the air ducts Die Hard style.

One day, she comes across an interesting-looking spider during her excursions, so naturally, she takes it home and keeps it as a pet. She names the arachnid Sting, after Bilbo’s sword in The Hobbit, and she catches bugs whenever she can to feed it. However, soon enough, the spider starts to grow at an impossible rate. As this monster grows, so does its appetite.

That sounds like a perfect premise for a creature feature, but unfortunately, Sting suffers from three fatal flaws. To begin, it shows just how important human characters are to a monster movie, and not in a good way. Nearly everybody in this film is bland and one-dimensional, and the film is just a slog to get through.

Two men examining something
Photo courtesy of Well Go USA

For instance, there’s a biology grad student named Erik who lives in Charlotte’s building, and he speaks in quite possibly the most monotone voice I’ve heard all year. To be fair, I think his schtick is supposed to be funny, but it just comes across as annoyingly drab. He’s by far the most uninteresting character in this movie, though the rest of them aren’t too far behind.

The only exception is an exterminator named Frank. He’s pretty hilarious whenever he’s on screen, but unfortunately, we don’t get to see much of him. He’s a C-level side character and not nearly enough of one to save the film.

Along similar lines, Sting also tries to use the dynamic between Charlotte and her stepfather Ethan to tug at our heartstrings. This attempt falls completely flat. See, Ethan is trying to win Charlotte over, but she hasn’t completely accepted him. She still considers her biological father to be her real father, even though he’s pretty much abandoned her. That causes some predictable tension between her and Ethan, and it plays out exactly the way you’d expect it to.

It’s not the predictability that’s the problem (although it doesn’t help). The real issue is twofold. For starters, since I didn’t care about either of these characters, it was hard to care about their relationship. Secondly, Sting commits the cardinal cinematic sin of expositing their relationship through words rather than visual storytelling. 

Granted, the movie doesn’t always do this, but it falls into this trap often enough that I didn’t truly buy into Charlotte and Ethan’s journey together. I wish I could’ve seen more of it for myself, but instead, I had to take them at their word, and that almost always spells disaster for a film.

A man looking at an air duct
Photo courtesy of Well Go USA

On top of all that, Sting also fails to impress with its horror. In particular, despite my fear of spiders, this arachnid never made me feel the tension and anxiety I had braced myself for. Even when I saw it crawling around in that creepy, spidery manner, I never felt the urge to cover my eyes or look away.

It’s tough to put my finger on exactly why, but I think it has to do with the effects used to bring Charlotte’s pet to life. The movie seems to use a blend of practical puppetry and digital effects, and even though the creature generally looks pretty good, it’s not quite 100% believable. It’s just bad enough that I felt like I was watching movie magic rather than a real spider, and since the characters in this film don’t carry their weight, that otherwise forgivable flaw becomes way more noticeable and bothersome than it should be.

That being said, I do have to give Sting huge props for its gore. When the monster kills people or animals, the aftermath is a disgusting, bloody mess, and unlike the spider itself, I completely believed these effects. Even when the monster paralyzes its prey and stows them away for later, the effects are handled well.

Most notably, there’s a scene where Charlotte sees one of her neighbors wrapped up in webbing on the ceiling, and the shot reminded me of the 1988 remake of The Blob. It has a similar vibe to some of the scenes where we see the Blob’s victims being eaten by the creature, and as a huge fan of The Blob, I got a real kick out of that parallel.

Unfortunately, those cool gore effects aren’t nearly enough to save Sting. The bland characters, the unconvincing dynamic between Charlotte and Ethan, and the lack of fear the spider induced in me just did the movie in. It’s not the arachnophobic hell (or heaven, depending on how you look at it) I was hoping for, so whether you’re afraid of spiders or not, I suggest giving this film a pass.

Sting is set to hit theaters on April 12.

Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong movie fan, and his favorite genres are horror, superheroes, and giant monsters.

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