Stung Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by Benni Diez
Written by Adam Aresty
2015, 87 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on November 3rd, 2015
Matt O’Leary as Paul
Jessica Cook as Julia
Lance Henriksen as Caruthers
Clifton Collins Jr. as Sydney
Cecilia Pillado as Flora
I’m not even really sure what just happened. One minute everybody’s drinking, dancing and having a nice time and then...Boom! Chaos! Suddenly people are screaming and fighting and running for their lives and these...these things are all over the place! Out of nowhere giant wasps are attacking from every direction and people are dying but, what makes it even worse, these creatures are burrowing into victims and growing even bigger and are super-freaking strong! A handful of guests and the two caterers make it into the house for cover, but this is only a brief reprieve as the monsters cannot be kept out – not when there are more delicious people inside. There has to be some sort of explanation but, honestly, survival is more important right now than finding out if the bugs have a list of demands or a favorite after-dinner cocktail.
I dig a good monster and can easily recommend titles that include beasties ranging from the likes of giant ants in THEM! (1954), killer mutant fish in Piranha (1978) and even the crazy bug bonanza of Infested (2002). As long as the movie is fun and doesn’t bog down by taking itself too seriously, I am quite all right if the filmmakers choose to run with the “killer bug playbook” and slam every cliché into the windshield on the way to the closing credits. Stung is a love letter to the classic Man vs. Nature creature features that once filled drive-in double bills across the land. Horror fans will recognize many nods to those that came before, but these are included as deliberate homage. There are plenty of action scenes to keep the most jaded viewer entertained and, better still, the majority of the effects are traditional practical gags that have the bugs operated as giant animatronics. To be fair, there is a lot of CGI onscreen too, and some looks pretty terrible, but the majority works well enough and the director wisely does not linger on lesser shots.
Stung really caught me off guard. I don’t know if it was the lateness of the hour or the special beverages that accompanied the film, but I really enjoyed the hell out of this flick. Benni Diez makes a strong debut in the director’s chair after years working as a visual f/x artist. Working from a script by fellow first timer Adam Aresty, the structure moves like a bullet, slowing down only long enough for viewers to catch their breath before jumping back into the action. There are weaknesses to be sure, but for the most part, this is a fun ride. The film quickly sets up the main characters, caterers Julia and Paul, and surrounds them with a handful of interesting supporting players before unleashing the madness. The high concept of WASP vs. wasp is pretty awesome and Aresty has a lot of fun with the possibilities. Filmed on the rural outskirts of Berlin, Germany, the locations are gorgeous and cinematographer Stephan Burchardt makes the most of the spaces provided.
Jessica Cook (Awkward) and Matt O’Leary (Sorority Row) are in almost every scene and really shine as Julia and Paul. Both deliver solid performances and have great comedic timing (aside from some forced physical bits) and I found myself wanting to see their characters successfully survive this ordeal. Lance Henriksen (Lake Eerie) knows exactly what kind of movie he is in and earns points for playing it straight in the role of the drunken Mayor Caruthers. The always watchable and highly talented Clifton Collins Jr (Crank 2) is better than the material, but is clearly having fun as the quirky Sydney, son of the elderly hostess. The real stars are special make-up effects artists Josh Head, Martin Schäper, Inga Ross and Meike Gfrörer whose work on the killer bugs is disgustingly impressive. One of my favorite touches is the idea of cadaver debris sticking to the wasps after they emerge from their host bodies.
I have found that horror audiences are more forgiving of a film’s shortcomings as long as the overall product is entertaining. Fans will look the other way as they drive a large vehicle through various plot holes and smile happily as they watch an actress fighting a rubber monster if they trust the filmmaker’s intent. Stung is not a perfect creature feature, but it is one of the more interesting ones I have come across in a while. Once the wasps attack, the flick jumps into overdrive and I am left with the hope that somewhere in the audience, Roger Corman is smiling. Extra time has been spent making this film shine and the efforts of the cast and crew are commendable since this could have easily been a quickie throwaway. I appreciate that the material is taken seriously and the emphasis is on fun rather than shoe-horning in a lot of political or social commentary. Sometimes a killer bug movie is just that and doesn’t need to be more.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Stung looks terrific. Colors and black levels are equally strong and flesh tones appear natural throughout. There is plenty of small object detail, both a blessing and a curse when it comes to the CGI.
Genre fans will forgive a slightly out of focus shot before they will accept poor audio. The filmmakers are aware of this and have spent a lot of time on the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and the results are impressive. This is a very active track that makes use of all available speakers when the wasps fill the air. The numerous action sequences are given a surprisingly powerful range while the quiet pauses allow for some creepy atmospherics.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Director Benni Diez, writer Adam Aresty and producer Benjamin Munz deliver an engaging and entertaining commentary track that is filled with information and anecdotes from both sides of the camera. The trio appears genuinely happy that the extended production period is over and they are eager to tell their tales.
The simply titled Making of Stung (21 minutes) offers a glimpse at the daily grind in making a low-budget horror film. This fast-paced featurette showcases the amazing special effects and includes interviews with members of the cast and crew.
A collection of short video diaries are assembled into a Production Journal (21 minutes) that spans the entirety of the shoot. Each entry is only at most a few minutes long, but the focus on individual aspects on a daily basis is a welcome addition.
The original theatrical trailer is also included.
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