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With Sting, director Kiah Roache-Turner has come up with something less grandiose than his previous mash-ups in the genre, but equally as entertaining. This monster flick and family tearjerker is where Wētā Workshop’s practical effects take center stage as its icky kills carry a lot of emotional weight. But this is another example of a high-concept experiment by the brains behind Wyrmwood—Mad Max meets Dawn of the Dead, only that Roache-Turner reins it all in allowing for something smaller and unique to evolve in between.

His actors also know the type of movie being made here and they lean into it with authenticity enhancing its absurdity. For instance, there is a scene somewhere in the middle when Ethan (played by Ryan Corr) who draws comics at his drawing table while his moody step-daughter Charlotte enters through the door (and Alyla Browne playing someone whose name makes sense once you get to know what is attacking them). The two are developing a new series together, one where she writes and he does the artwork making it somewhat popular on social media though there is more than meets eye. This tender moment perfectly illustrates how Charlotte uses graphic novels to explore their new somewhat awkward kinship and exorcize her own demons resulting from Ethan having based their story’s hero on her absentee father.

Just before that bonding gap involving Ethan, stepfather to Charlotte occurs however we see an exterminator pulled into an air vent by a giant spider which painfully mimics Ghostbusters. (Could this possibly be SONY’s way of getting itself off hiring?) Meanwhile, Roache-Turner combines various genres while messing around with feelings but if anything there lies some pathos hidden beneath most partsofSting which instead settles for ironic comedy. Sometimes these melodramas appear too sugary given what really is a B picture storyline.

At another point Ethan asks his strange scientist neighbor (Danny Kim) about the spider that stalks the vast air duct system in his New York City apartment complex. “What type of spider are we talking about?” The response is brief and just right: “A big one.” A giant spider is eating everything with a heartbeat, and given how small the cast is, it won’t be long before it gets to Ethan and his family.

Is this information all we need to understand Sting’s screwball rhythm? Yes, but not exactly. Except for its origin: this particular spider—whose owner Charlotte has kept as a pet since it was very tiny – comes from outer space. When did it join the rest of their complicated home life? One day there is a meteorite that flies through the window of their apartment building and lands on a miniature dollhouse. And out comes the spider which wiggles its way through the dollhouse playing area accompanied by The Pleasure Seekers’ What A Way To Die (a riot unto itself). It’s there with Charlotte who picks it up.

Charlotte’s secret pet lets us see this small apartment as a microcosm for Charlotte and her life. With a tough shell built by abandonment, she is at her best when it slips. So, she lashes out at her working-from-home mom (Penelope Mitchell) and stepfather with nothing but barbs and attitude. Charlotte feels safe in her room where there are comics, craft supplies and fantasy all around.

It’s named Sting because it reminds her of the beast from The Hobbit – that book on the well-stocked shelf; and to me it seems like the spider has agency of its own: he comes up with “Sting,” so she names him that too.

This film has an endearing warmth to it. The house is closed off indoors–most characters wear awesome grandma sweaters–which is then gleefully subverted by sudden shocks of horror when Charlotte’s spider grows to impossible sizes and displays signs of superhuman intelligence. It only appears momentarily in its horrific majesty: Wētā has designed a creature that resembles both black widow spiders and xenomorphs while also incorporating some Eight Legged Freaks-style DNA freakazoidisms into its make-up. Covering Sting from active roaming cameras and through heightened reality gives it an Alien vibe only fused with Evil Dead.

That’s typical Roache-Turner behavior. Many things he brings into Sting will be familiar to people who are avid fans of horror movies; there’s even an additional story beat in there paying homage to Roger Corman’s Little Shop of Horrors. But as we continue watching Sting grow more cinephilically referential alongside its rising body-count, one wonders what other famous movies could one day collide inside another Roache-Turner outing? Maybe they’ll finally meet head on with an idea that’s uniquely his?


Kiah Roache Turner makes his most conventionally realized pastiche on a smaller scale with Sting, combining Wētā Workshop creature effects and a family drama that invests its gooey kills with some meaning. However, it does toy a bit too much with familiar ideas like Ghostbusters, Alien, and Evil Dead – the most obvious influences; still an excellent cast headed by Alyla Browne (who’s also memorable in House of the Dragon) and Ryan Corr from Roache-Turner’s earlier work give his chilling winter tale enough heart to make the scenes of gooey monster violence to come seem worthwhile.

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