A lot of people were harsh on last year’s winking-at-the-camera B-picture Zombeavers for being a little too try-hard & calculated. Personally, I’m a little more forgiving on silly, made-for-cult-audiences trifles than most, so I enjoyed its SyFy Channel-type camp well enough. What saved the picture for me more than anything was the handmade beaver puppets. The film’s dialogue was never quite as amusing as it wanted to be, but the slightest appearance of a zombie beaver puppet could have me howling.
Toeing the exact same line between terrible dialogue/acting & delightful special effects is the recent horror comedy Stung. The directorial debut of German special effects artist Benni Diez, Stung is a fairly basic creature feature about mutant wasps that brutally disrupt a stuffy garden party. Much of the film is bland & sloppily slapped together, but a few bonkers plot twists in the third act & a refreshing focus on handmade practical effects save it from feeling like another hopeless CGI-heavy cheapie like a Lavalantula! or a Sharknado 3. If you have little to no interest in monster movie creature effects, you’re likely to spend most of the film bored & frustrated in the wait for bodies to drop & the credits to roll. The only attraction featured here is the giant mutant wasps themselves.
Remove the mutant wasps from Stung & you basically have the world’s worst episode of Party Down. A small catering company handles a quirkily pathetic garden party while experimenting with a will-they-won’t-they romance that no one could possibly care about. The lead is a painfully unfunny physical comedian with a whiny “But I’m a Nice Guy”/friendzoned approach to romance. His love interest is a Type A Bitch™ we’re supposed to deride for caring more about her flailing small business & personal survival than getting laid by a bartender/clown/employee. The best bet for finding a worthwhile character is among the party guests, since the leads are such dull wastes of time. My vote for MVP (or maybe Only Valuable Player in this case) goes to genre film veteran Lance Henriksen as a drunken small town mayor.At the very least he gets a couple decent one-liners out, like when he quips “This party needs an autopsy” (before the killings start) and when he responds to the correction, “Those are not bees, those are wasps” with “Who gives a shit?” Even Henriksen’s world-weary irreverence does little to liven up the proceedings, though, and most of the film’s time that’s not filled by killer wasp mayhem feels like a huge waste of effort.
It’s a good thing, then, that there’s so much killer wasp gore to (excuse the expression) chew on here. Stung‘s gigantic mutant wasps click & screech like insectoid pterodactyls. When they sting their prey they use the victim as a flesh vessel to incubate even larger wasps. These transformations are massive, wet, disgusting, and above all else entertaining. The mayhem gets even more gnarly from there, especially in the film’s go-for-broke third act stupidity. Gigantic nests, wasp-controlled human drones, wriggling larvae, and flaming monsters all make for a wickedly amusing good time as long as you pay more attention to what the creatures are up to than anything said or done by their entirely-forgettable victims. Stung is to be enjoyed for its Them!-style monster puppets & 80’s Peter Jackson gore, not for its sense of narrative or tonal nuance. About the only thing that qualifies as a successful joke in the film is when one character carries around a can of bug spray as an in-vain mode of protection, but even that gag qualifies as a triumph of the costume department. Stung is all about its puppets & gore and nothing else. That just happened to be enough to make it worthwhile for me.