Take it from a guy who has seen films called The Deadly Bees (1966), Killer Bees (1974), The Savage Bees (1976), The Swarm (1978), The Bees (1978), and Deadly Invasion: The Killer Bee Nightmare (1995): You won’t find all that many high-quality “killer bee” movies out there. The bar for this sub-genre is (obviously) pretty damn low, which means that the scrappy indie import known as Stung doesn’t have to do all that much to rank relatively high on that particular list. Thanks to a quick sense of humor, a collection of very cool monster effects, and an unexpectedly good-natured sense of character, Stung isn’t just “one of the best killer bee movies” by default; it’s also just a good genre flick in its own right.
Plainly inspired by some of the better Jaws knock-offs (like Joe Dante’s Piranha and Lewis Teague’s Alligator), Stung is about a pair of caterers, an allegedly “high class” dinner party, and a swarm of inordinately large, wildly aggressive wasps who show up out of nowhere and start killing everyone. Plot-wise, that’s the long and the short of it, and it’s this sort of to-the-point delivery that keeps Stung moving along at a brisk clip even when there aren’t gigantic, mutated wasps careening across the screen.
More amusing, endearing, and colorfully icky than overtly scary, Stung earns a lot of extra credit for providing the viewer with an unexpectedly likable pair of leads; Julia (Jessica Cook) is the new owner of a failing catering company, and Paul (Matt O’Leary) is a lazy but loyal employee who is (not so) secretly in love with his boss. The quick wit and chemistry between Cook and O’Leary prevents Stung from slowing down in between its maniacal insect attacks, and there’s also some weirdly funny support from actors like Lance Henriksen and Clifton Collins Jr. — two guys who could liven up just about any b-movie.
So the set-up is simple but effective, we have two heroes worth rooting for, and the supporting cast boasts a few familiar faces — but how cool are the giant killer wasp sequences? That’s why we rented the movie in the first place! For giant killer bugs with stingers!
The monstrous wasps are pretty darn cool, truth be told. Although clearly produced with limited means, Stung delivers a generous dose of bee movie madness — and it does so with some nice cinematography and a jaunty score, too. The digitally animated wasp monsters are more than a little impressive, but director Benni Diez also makes sure to provide horror fans with some appreciably “practical” carnage at key moments. The result is a half-modern, half-old school concoction that nails the “monster matinee” vibe the filmmakers are plainly shooting for.
Some “animal attack” movies are worth seeing solely for the scary bits, but Stung tries pretty hard to provide us with some engaging characters and a few funny moments before it unleashes its swarm of giant, furious wasps. That effort alone is worthy of note, and doubly so when it results in a comedy/horror/romance that actually delivers in all three departments.
Rating: 4 out of 5 beeritos
(Stung is now available on VOBee. I mean VOD.)