Sunday, August 23, 2015

In short: Stung (2015)

Caterer Julie (Jessica Cook) and her employee and friend Paul (Matt O’Leary) are working a rich people’s garden party. There’s not really much to get excited about in the job, apart from watching the friendly alcoholic mayor (Lance Henriksen) get drunk in a chipper manner, or see the rich neurotic son (Clifton Collins Jr.) be rich and neurotic, giving Paul ample time to pine for Julie (unrequitedly).

Alas – or fortunately, depending on one’s viewing tastes – the party is attacked by icky killer wasps. Worse (or even better), their stung victims quickly pop open and give birth to really damn big icky killer wasps. Soon, there’s not much of the party left, and the few survivors (obviously including Julie and Paul, because how else would the two ever get together?) are barricading themselves in the manor house. Obviously, the wasps aren’t going to let things stand there.

So, what do you have to do to get a genre film made in Germany (or the other predominantly German language countries, for that matter), particularly when said genre isn’t “shitty comedy”? The public film support funds don’t want genre, the critics look down on it, kickstarting films is pretty difficult unless you’ve got additional sources, and who wants to stay on the semi-amateur backyard circuit forever? Honestly, the minor wave of German horror (etc) films made during the last few years is a bit of a wonder, suggesting a degree of perseverance from the side of the filmmakers I can’t help but admire.

Stung’s director Benni Diez apparently solved the conundrum of how to scratch enough money together by going the time-honoured way of getting a US source, and an American cast, resulting in a film that attempts to emulate one of your better US monster movies, despite being shot in Berlin with a German language crew behind the camera. Of course, given my usual love for the local and the specific, the resulting genericness of the setting is a bit of a disappointment; on the other hand, Lance Henriksen. Lance Henriksen in a very good and charming mood, and with more scenes than I expected him to have, even.

Otherwise, this is a competent, if not completely slick, bit of horror hokum featuring a neat (though not always convincing) combination of practical and digital effects (which always seems like the best way to go for me), some pleasantly icky moments of body horror, some funny jokes, some less funny ones – all wrapped up in a package of decent pacing and a total lack of depth, like a really good SyFy Channel Original. Please keep in mind that this description is not an insult coming from, for I do appreciate a ninety minute genre piece that just wants to entertain its audience for a bit. Particularly when it is like Stung and actually achieves what it sets out to do. I at least had quite a bit of harmless, riskless fun with the film.

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