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Sting Review: Disappointing Arachnid Horror

A spider looms over a girl's head while she's asleep in bed in the arachnid horror film Sting

Kiah Roache-Turner’s Sting is a visually strong horror film that unfortunately suffers from a weak screenplay and wasted potential.

Director: Kiah Roache-Turner
Genre: Horror
Run Time: 92′
US Release: April 12, 2024
UK Release: May 31, 2024
Where to watch: in US theaters and UK & Irish cinemas

To many people, spiders are terrifying beasts. Despite their relatively small size, when one creeps into your bedroom or bathroom, and you’re unprepared, it’s easy to fall into fear. What happens, though, when that small spider on your wall or in your sink becomes much bigger than you could possibly imagine? Kiah Roache-Turner’s Sting is a mix of b-movie cheese and Spielbergian earnestness that, unfortunately, yields mixed results. 

Sting follows Charlotte (Alyla Browne of Three Thousand Years of Longing), a 12-year-old girl living with her parents in New York City. During a night of exploring her apartment block, Charlotte discovers a mysterious object housing a small spider and brings it home. As her parents put all their attention on their work commitments and the arrival of their new baby, Charlotte begins spending time with this spider and gives it the name Sting. The two grow closer together, but in this sweet relationship between an arachnid and a human, bloodlust bubbles up as Sting grows in size. When animals and people start going missing, it’s up to Charlotte to stop her new spider friend before it’s too late.

From the outset, Sting carries many influences on its sleeves, with 50s B-movies and the Spielbergian vibes of the 80s being particular tone-setters. Charlotte is a young girl early in her adolescent years but not without the angst that comes with entering the teens. Cooped up in this troubled New York apartment, Charlotte spends her time trespassing and exploring what she can while avoiding the home life that makes her feel like a ghost. When Charlotte tries to spend time with her parents, her baby brother demands all the attention, leaving her increasingly isolated. It’s here where the heart of Sting enters the screen. At the film’s core is a story about childhood friendships and the importance of family connections. At first, the spider is a cute new friend, but quickly, it becomes clear that there is more to them than meets the eye. Whether it’s Poltergeist or E.T., the Spielbergian energy is, for better or worse, present and accounted for.

A key marketing point of Sting is, of course, the giant spider. With a mix of digital and practical effects, the film’s overall visual palette is quite strong despite the lower budget. Of course, the digital effects don’t quite hit the mark as much as the practical stuff, but they are undeniably impressive and, frankly, better than even some recent bigger-budget releases. Although many of the film’s kills unfortunately occur off-screen, there are several great make-up effects that show off the viciousness of our titular spider character. Whether it’s vomit caused by its venomous bite or the disgusting webs it creates to wrap up its prey, Sting clearly has a lot of fun playing around with the rules of arachnids. 

Father and daughter stand in front of each other with hands on each other's shoulders in the arachnid horror film Sting
Sting (Well Go USA)

The core issues with Sting begin to show in its inconsistent tone, which suffers from a case of wanting to take itself much more seriously than you’d expect despite also wanting to also be a goofy creature feature. Much of the film focuses on this misplaced domestic family drama where Charlotte struggles with her parent relationships as a new baby enters the household. This leads to multiple scenes of family arguments and drama that clash severely with the many goofy side characters the film has at its disposal. The efforts to make a B-movie with actual heart are noble, but with Sting it just leads to a film that is inconsistent at best and boring at worst. When you’re watching a movie with the promise of a giant spider eating people, the unoriginal and poorly written family drama is the last thing you want to see.

By the time we reach the third act of Sting, we’re left with a film that’s fun in spots but ultimately sabotages itself by seeking to go far too deep in its simplistic ambitions. At the core of this film is a giant spider that eats people in horrific ways, and when it takes advantage of that, it’s mostly solid, if unoriginal. Everything else surrounding it, however, just can’t compare. The time spent building this uninteresting family drama feels incredibly frustrating when, deep down, we all know what we’ve come to see. When there are only 90 minutes to play around with this premise, including credits, trimming the fat is essential, but unfortunately, this film does not.

Nothing about Sting is particularly terrible, but it’s unfortunately a film that’s unable to reach the potential it has to be a fun horror romp. The cast tries their best, but when you’re forced to follow these flat characters in order to get to the good stuff, you’re left with a film that crumbles under its own weight. The practical effects and gore are a lot of fun but cover only a small percentage of the actual runtime. Sting is worth a watch for those who are more fearful of spiders than others, but for those looking for the next excellent creature feature, you’ll likely be disappointed with the results here. 

Sting was released in theaters in the U.S. & Canada on April 12, 2024 and will be out in UK cinemas from May 31.

Sting: Trailer (Well Go USA)
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