Stung [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Shout! Factory
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (12th December 2015).
The Film

If there is one subgenre in horror of which I am a complete and total sucker, it is the creature feature. As someone who was raised on a hearty diet of all things monstrous (chief among them, Godzilla), there are few beastly pictures I won’t at least give a watch to… unless they were made within the past, oh, fifteen years. What happened? I hate to beat a dead horse, but it’s because of CGI. Unless filmmakers are working with a huge budget, chances are any titular creature is going to look like a poorly-rendered cartoon that clumsily interacts with the tangible world around it. I’ll take the bizarro mutant bear from “Prophecy” (1979) over any of the could-be-fun shlock SyFy pumps out on a seemingly weekly basis, and that’s because that ugly-ass bear looks like it inhabits the real world. But let me step off this soapbox because this review isn’t about to bash “Stung” (2015). First-time feature director Benni Diez’s tale of killer wasps attacking high society guests at a party makes great use of some old-school techniques. The picture isn’t a clear winner, due to some bland scripting and weak humor – and a bit of mediocre CGI – but in an era of crappy creature features this is one of the more fun entries.

Catering buddies Julia (Jessica Cook) and Paul (Matt O’Leary) are on their way to work an event at a mansion out in the countryside. Julia’s business is on the rocks and she’s counting on this gig to help get things back on track. Paul, meanwhile, has tagged along seemingly as an excuse to ogle Julia. Think he’ll find a moment to espouse his unrequited love? Duh. They arrive and meet Sydney (Clifton Collins, Jr.), son of the mansion’s owner, Mrs. Perch (Eve Slatner), who wastes no time in cracking open a cold one. Soon the backyard is filled with guests, including Mayor Carruthers (Lance Henriksen), and everyone is having a boozy blast. But then Paul begins to notice wasps buzzing about; wasps that are much larger than normal size. Not long after these wasps are spotted one of the guests is stung to death… and a human-sized wasp grotesquely emerges from her corpse.

Once enough guests have been stung to death and used as human hosts to supply an army of gargantuan wasps, our group of heroes – Julia, Paul, Carruthers, Sydney and his mom – make their way inside the home and down to the basement. Although they’re away from the melee, any horror fan worth his weight in blood knows they won’t be out of danger for long. Cut off from the outside world and unable to call for help, the group must band together and fight off these winged intruders before everyone gets… stung. I’m sorry, but I had to.

Even if the script and characters are a big bag of whatever, Diez gets two big components right: the creatures and the action. The influence of embiggened-animal master Bert I. Gordon is channeled here as the wasps vastly increase in size after gestation (which lasts all of a few seconds) and promptly continue attacking any humans in sight. Instead of focusing entirely on showing off full-scale creatures – a costly endeavor – Diez chooses to shoot parts of the whole; a limb here, a wing there… and lots of ooey, gooey, oozing slimy metamorphosis. Once the creatures’ size has been established, Diez allows minor practical effects to hold our focus, all while a flurry of activity is occurring in the background. Filling the frame in both the foreground and background makes the party attack appear bigger than it would have otherwise. Smart. Practical effects take a backseat just as the film makes a late-in-the-game reveal, but overall this film is filled with more practical creature work than the average feature of this ilk.

Acting-wise, there’s nothing particularly compelling about the two leads at all, but thanks to the gravitas of Lance Henriksen – and to a lesser degree, Clifton Collins, Jr., who is always great to watch – the picture isn’t just a fluffy showcase for cool creatures. And for those of you who might be convinced Henriksen bites the dust early on because he’s the one big name, well, you’re going to be pleasantly surprised.

“Stung” is a fun throwback to those animal attack pictures of the 70's, when usually-small creatures gained significant size and showed humanity what might happen if we weren’t at the top of the food chain. If the script had been tighter this could have been one of the year’s most fun films; as it stands, it’s still a good time for nature-run-amok aficionados who have been yearning for something greater than the typical drivel.

Video

As one might expect, the 2.40:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded image is rather sharp and nicely detailed, with strong color reproduction and solid textures. Being that most of the FX work is practical, it fits in seamlessly with the real-world environments. Conversely, the CGI often looks out of place and incongruent with the organic settings. Definition takes a hit when the action moves into darkness, but the image remains stable for the most part.

Audio

An English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound track (48kHz/24-bit) does a fantastic job of delivering the audible action. Speakers are buzzing with a bevy of activity, most notably from the large wasp community which flies around the soundfield providing excellent immersion. Expect to hear plenty from the low end, too, as there are many bombastic moments where the track hits those low frequencies perfectly. There is also an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo track included. Subtitles are available in English SDH and Spanish.

Extras

An audio commentary is included, featuring director Benni Diez, producer Benjamin Munz, and screenwriter Adam Aresty. This track hits all the expected topics and provides a nice overview of the film’s production process.

“Making of “Stung”” (1080p) is a featurette that runs for 21 minutes and 25 seconds. This piece examines the film’s pre-production, shooting, and offers up some behind-the-scenes glimpses at the actors and FX work.

“Production Blog” (1080p) is a featurette that runs for 21 minutes and 30 seconds. This is a compilation of production diaries as the movie moves from planning to shooting.

The film’s theatrical trailer (1080p) runs for 2 minutes and 12 seconds.

Packaging

The single disc comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keep case. The cover art is reversible and a slip-cover is included with initial pressings.

Overall

“Stung” is a fun feature that never quite gets over the hump to being great, or even really good, but fans of those old-school animal attack films will likely have a good time watching this one do it (mostly) right.

The Film: C+ Video: B+ Audio: B+ Extras: C+ Overall: C+

 


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