‘Sting’ Sends an Extraterrestrial Arachnid Into Your Nightmares

Go ahead, google "Australian spider," and then never sleep again.

The spider horror subgenre offers up eight-legged delights in every shape and size, and a few have gone on to become well-deserved favorites. It kicked off in a big way with 1955’s Tarantula, continued forward with 1977’s creepy Kingdom of the Spiders, and found a pitch perfect home in 1990’s Arachnophobia. There have been a couple dozen more over the years, but these three are arguably the best of the bunch. That might change this month, though, as not one but two new slices of spider horror are hitting screens. First out of the egg sac is a cheeky little horror/comedy from Australia called Sting. The spider antics have a bit of bite, but it’s the human buffet that holds it all back.

After a brief prologue showing an exterminator who’s no match for the spider before him, we jump back four days as a small meteorite crashes through the window of a Brooklyn apartment building. A tiny arachnid exits the space rock and is soon swooped up by a bored but sneaky tween named Charlotte (Alyla Brown) who gives it a new home in a jar. She names the little guy Sting and begins feeding it stray insects, but unbeknownst to her, the visitor is making its own munchie run each night — opening the jar, moving through the building via the air ducts, and feasting. That’s bad enough, but each new meal sees Sting grow, and soon they’re dealing with one big ass spider.

Writer/director Kiah Roache-Turner turns his attention from the zombie-filled post-apocalypse of his Wyrmwood franchise to a more common fear with Sting, but he can’t quite find a similarly successful blend of laughs and horrors. At ninety minutes, there’s still enough creepy crawly fun to be had for one viewing, but don’t expect this to become a new favorite.

The film’s at its best early on when the spider — a creation of both practical effects and CG — is small, relatable, and constantly crawling its way into places that make us twitch. Roache-Turner’s homeland of Australia is home to some truly heinous and terrifying-looking spiders, and it’s clear they’ve inspired some icky and sticky horror beats. Some of the spider’s endeavors are as cruel as they are creepy, like when Sting targets, bites, and goes to town on a lonely widow. Other times, though, see its carnivorous efforts played a bit looser as the film aims for some of that Amblin vibe leaving neither pets nor the building’s motley assortment of tenants safe for long.

Therein lays the problem, though, as Roache-Turner’s script works hard to create a quirky cast of characters but leans too far towards obnoxious and uninteresting. From a pair of grumpy old ladies (Noni Hazlehurst, Robyn Nevin) and an uber-weird Asian nerd (Danny Kim) to a wise-cracking exterminator (Jermaine Fowler) and the aforementioned Spanish widow (Silvia Colloca), they’re all played at a louder “volume” than the film needs. The result is a group of people who we wish would be eaten sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, that applies to young Charlotte and her mother (Penelope Mitchell) too, leaving only the girl’s new step-dad, Ethan (Ryan Corr) to gain our sympathy and interest.

Sting‘s script tries to develop a father/daughter relationship we’ll care about, but it just doesn’t come together and instead quickly comes to grate. It reaches the point where you’ll wish the poor guy would just pack up and leave them all behind. He doesn’t, of course, and instead the film plays out as you’d expect with the number of occupants dwindling and a father/daughter duo fighting to keep each other alive.

Roache-Turner’s non-spider inspirations run the gamut from Alien (1979) to The Shining (1980) to The Terminator (1984), and the set-pieces follow suit, albeit with a lower budget and a bit less craftsmanship. The camera has an energetic feel which keeps things vibrant and lively, but as mentioned above, the stand out aspect here is the spider itself. New Zealand’s Weta Workshop is the big name behind the creature, and their talents pay off with a spider that creeps, crawls, and oozes both menace and some sticky webs. This is more of a family film than a pure thriller, so the carnage is kept fairly tepid, but that uneasy feeling that a spider might be crawling up your own neck while watching goes a long way.

Sting finds some minor thrills as the extraterrestrial arachnid goes about its creepy, flesh-eating business, and fans of the subgenre will enjoy those highs. The human element is nowhere near as strong, though, and between obnoxious characters and some bumpy attempts at comedy, the film will frequently have you wishing the spider would eat faster. Not a bad thing, necessarily, for a spider horror movie, but not the best thing either.

Rob Hunter: Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.