Sting (2024) Movie Review

Arachnids tend to get an unfairly bad reputation in pop culture as mindless, venomous monsters. The new horror film “Sting” does little to dispel that notion, taking the straightforward premise of a flesh-eating space spider to some cringeworthy extremes. While it has some admirable elements, the movie ultimately feels like a missed opportunity to explore deeper themes or create a truly memorable creature feature.

The story follows 12-year-old Charlotte, who discovers a mysterious spider that crash-landed in a tiny asteroid onto her Brooklyn apartment building’s model replica. At first fascinated by her new pet “Sting”, Charlotte is soon horrified as the arachnid rapidly grows into a gargantuan, murderous beast. Her fractured family, including comic book artist stepdad Ethan, must then band together to stop the rampaging spider.

Director Kiah Roache-Turner clearly has an affection for 80s Amblin-esque tales of suburbia disrupted by the extraordinary. The opening title sequence, depicting Sting’s cosmic arrival, is slickly stylized and gripping. The practical creature effects by Weta Workshop are also impressive, bringing a palpable sense of tactile dread to the spider’s skittering presence.

However, the movie struggles to build on that strong foundation. The familial drama between Charlotte, Ethan, and her mother feels rote and underdeveloped, more filler than compelling emotional core. The kills and money shots featuring the spider often feel frustratingly brief, cutting away before they can really revel in deliciously tense or gory thrills.

Most damningly, Sting the spider itself is a fairly generic, one-note threat. Despite a cool otherworldly design, it doesn’t really do anything that makes it particularly unique or memorable as a movie monster. The spider’s whistling ability is introduced then promptly forgotten. And with characters who are thinly sketched, there’s little sense of stakes or emotional investment in their battle against the beast.

Sting has some entertaining moments and undeniable technical skill behind it. But without richer characters or a more distinctive hook, it ultimately feels like just another disposable killer animal flick. Spiders may be misunderstood, but this movie doesn’t make a convincing case for their cinematic redemption. A little more depth and creativity could have elevated Sting from an average creepy-crawly flick to a new cult classic.

While the core premise has B-movie simplicity, Sting squanders opportunities to put an inventive spin on its basic conceit. The spider’s space origins and ability to mimic sounds raise expectations that it may have more going on than just being a mindless killing machine. But these quirks end up being mere window dressing rather than integrated into the plot or creature’s behavior in any meaningful way.

The characters, too, are largely one-note archetypes that fail to transcend their basic functions. Ethan is the well-meaning but distracted father figure, Charlotte the alienated daughter, mom Heather the nagging voice of reason. Side characters like the wisecracking exterminator Frank (Jermaine Fowler) have a few humorous moments but remain thinly sketched. With such flatly rendered personalities, it’s hard to get invested in their struggle against the rampaging arachnid.

To its credit, Sting maintains a brisk pace and never overstays its welcome at a lean 91 minutes. And when the movie does finally allow its monster to cut loose, it delivers some effectively cringe-inducing gore and arachnid ickiness. A standout sequence finds the spider crawling down the bathrobe of a grieving mother before worming its way into her mouth in grotesquely vivid detail.

Moments like this hint at the deliriously unsettling creature feature Sting could have been with a bit more creative audacity behind it. As is, it’s a fairly by-the-numbers but technically well-crafted killer animal romp – effectively creepy in short bursts but lacking enough personality or narrative craft to be a new genre classic.

The production values are solid, with Weta’s practical spider effects being a highlight. Cinematographer Brad Shield makes inspired use of the film’s Brooklyn apartment setting, at one point beautifully capturing the spider’s reflection in the moonlight on Charlotte’s cheek as it escapes its jar. World-building details like Charlotte’s traversal of the building’s airduct network are clever environmental flourishes.

Despite some strong individual moments and elements, Sting feels like an opportunity missed to do something truly unique and memorable with its killer spider setup. Genre fans will find some campy thrills, but not the inspired new cult classic they may have hoped for. For a movie about such a maligned creature, it’s a bit of a letdown that Sting doesn’t do more to rehabilitate spiders’ big screen reputation.

At the end of the day, Sting is a reasonably entertaining but fairly forgettable killer animal flick. It has some strong technical elements and a few effectively creepy moments, but lacks enough creative spark or narrative depth to truly stick in the memory. While hardly a bad film, it squanders its intriguing setup by playing things too safe and straightforward.

The opening sequence is stylishly executed, but the movie never quite recaptures that initial burst of inventive flair. Once the basic “giant spider terrorizes a Brooklyn apartment building” premise is established, Sting meanders through a mix of familiar horror tropes and half-baked family drama subplots. Neither the characters nor the titular arachnid threat make a strong enough impression to compensate for the lack of an inspired through-line.

I appreciate that Roache-Turner was striving for a retro Amblin vibe of suburban fantasy gone awry. And there are glimmers of that Spielbergian sense of wonder amidst the genre thrills, like the lovely shot of the spider’s reflection on Charlotte’s face. But Sting never finds a way to put a fresh spin on its creature feature setup or elevate the somewhat rote interpersonal conflicts to a truly compelling emotional level.

It’s a perfectly watchable and competently made B-movie, with some undeniably creepy moments courtesy of the Weta creature effects. But it also feels like a missed opportunity to do something truly unique and memorable with its “killer space spider” hook. Sting delivers some disposable scares and cheesy fun, but not the ingeniously wild horror rollercoaster or poignant family drama it could have been with a bit more ambition. A decent timewaster for genre fans, but unlikely to achieve new cult status.

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