Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Kiah Roache-Turner’s Sting

Maybe the original name of this lethal space-spider was Gordon Sumner, before the little girl who adopts it dubs the creature “Sting.” Why would you pick up a spider of this size, like stray dog? Needless to say, young Charlotte is feeling a little alienated and she will soon be feeling pretty guilty, because it really is sort of all her fault when the spider starts biting in director-screenwriter Kiah Roache-Turner’s Sting, which opens this Friday in theaters.

The spider landed with such velocity, it only bored a small hole through Charlotte’s window pane, but it somehow landed softly enough. It is big and ugly, even by tarantula standards, but she decides to keep it anyway. (The name “Sting” is actually a
Hobbit reference.) Charlotte has been sulky since her infant brother was born, because it seems like her mother Heather and stepfather Ethan no longer have time for her. Indeed, neither has much time for anything. He works days as their building super and nights struggling to complete a high-profile freelance comic book commission, while she has restarted her architectural career.

Charlotte’s relationship with Ethan is especially complicated because she assumes her deadbeat birth-father is still abroad, rather than avoiding her. Having more extended family nearby is not helping much. Charlotte still adores her dementia-stricken grandmother, Helga, but Gunter, the mean old aunt who owns the building, is a real pill. The other neighbors are a mixed bag, but she assumes Erik, the self-styled science geek, might be able to help, when Sting starts to be a bit of a handful.

There is considerably more character development in
Sting than you get from typical creepy-crawly flicks. There is also some tension-breaking comedic relief provided by Jermaine Fowler as Frank, the exterminator, whose uniform probably intentionally somewhat vaguely resembles that of a Ghostbuster.

However, Charlotte’s 12-year-old angst is maybe too realistic. Honestly, which would you rather deal with, a large alien spider or a moody preteen girl? If you said the arachnid, you’re probably not alone. Still, the attempt to balance credible characters, mostly (but not entirely) practical gross-out effects, and jaded New Yorker humor is appreciated. This is definitely an improvement over Roache-Turner’s disappointing sequel
Wyrmwood: Apocalypse, but not as entertaining as the original Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead. The mix needed more tweaking, but Roache-Turner is going in the right direction with his first feature not co-written with his brother, Tristan.

Alyla Brown is a believable 12-year-old girl, which often means she is insufferable. Yet, the hot-and-cold chemistry she develops with Ryan Corr, as stepdad Ethan, really rings true. Fowler also gets a lot of laughs as the exterminator, without being too much. Noni Hazlehurst portrays the capacity-diminished Helga with warmth and sensitivity, while Robyn Nevin really leans into Gunter’s nastiness. Unfortunately, Penelope Mitchell has next-to-nothing to work with playing Charlotte’s unintuitive and unobservant mother.

Genre fans will want to love
Sting because it has a lot going for it, but it really should have been snappier. It is pretty good, but not great. Recommended for killer spider fans, Sting opens Friday (4/12) in theaters, including the AMC Empire in New York.