Sunday, April 19, 2015

Tribeca ’15: Stung

These are wasps, not bees, so the stakes are already higher than in Irwin Allen’s The Swarm. A plucky caterer and her slacker assistant are about to lay a spread for the worst garden party ever. It was totally dead, until the mutant wasps crashed the soiree. Laughter and gore go together like white wine and canapés in Benni Diez’s Stung (trailer here), which screens during the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival.

After inheriting her father’s catering business, Julia is struggling to keep it afloat. She employees the obviously besotted Paul, who struggles to keep himself together. They will cater the annual shindig hosted by Mr. Perch and her socially stunted son Sydney. By the way, the mutated wasps are all his fault, because he foolishly spiked the fertilizer with his late researcher father’s molecular juice. Unfortunately, these killer wasps are not just big and angry. They also lay their larva inside their victims, creating mutant-hybrid, with some Alien-style chest cavity explosions thrown in for good measure. Of course, that is nothing Lance Henriksen hasn’t seen before. This time he turns up as Mayor Carruthers, a flinty Korean War veteran, who appreciates a nice bottle of wine.

Seriously, how money in the bank is Henriksen? In this case, he is no mere “guest star.” He has significant screen-time as the Mayor (you know you’d vote for him) and he never wastes a second of it. Frankly, it is darned difficult sharing the film with a rampaging swarm of evil wasps and a cult favorite like Henriksen. Nevertheless, Matt O’Leary and Jessica Cook are admirably good sports dealing with all the spurting blood and spewing goo, as Julia and Paul, respectively. They seem just real enough to be worth rooting for and tough enough to not try our patience as experienced genre movie fans.

Nevertheless, the mutant insects are always the most important thing in a bugs-gone-wild movie, but happily Stung delivers the goods. Frankly, Diez gets the balance just right with creatures realized well-enough to facilitate all kinds of gruesome gags, but not so realistic it can’t poke fun at itself and its genre. Not to be spoilery, but normally the “it’s still out there” ending is predictably lame, yet Stung’s finale is truly a spectacle to behold.

Stung is not quite as gleefully nuts as last year’s Tribeca-selected Zombeavers, but it is not for a lack of trying. An inspired exercise in gross-out humor and big creepy bug effects, Stung is one of the first 2015 Tribeca film to get picked up for distribution (by IFC Midnight), which suggests we might live in a just world after all. Highly recommended, Stung screens again this Thursday (4/23), as part of Tribeca ’15.