Genre film­mak­ers have loved mak­ing giant killer bug movies since the ‘50s but it’s only in recent times that they’ve had the spe­cial effects capa­bil­i­ty to make the con­cept look impres­sive. Stung is a 21st cen­tu­ry exam­ple of the form that ben­e­fits from such tech­no­log­i­cal advances, deliv­er­ing the kind of FX that would have been unimag­in­able before the 2000’s. It also makes a good faith attempt to rein­vent the form in oth­er areas but those ele­ments of this sub­gen­re aren’t as eas­i­ly reworked.

Stung-bluThe main pro­tag­o­nists of Stung are Julia (Jessica Cook) and Paul (Matt O’Leary). She’s try­ing to keep her recent­ly deceased father’s par­ty-plan­ning com­pa­ny afloat and he’s the slack­er employ­ee who has a not-so-secret crush on her. They go to a seclud­ed coun­try estate to take care of a par­ty. Unfortunately, said des­ti­na­tion is also home to a horde of genet­i­cal­ly-enhanced wasps that can not only kill peo­ple but har­vest their bod­ies to grow into nasty, giant-size ver­sions of them­selves. Pretty soon, Julia and Paul are bar­ri­cad­ed in the house with the local Mayor (Lance Henriksen) and geeky rich kid Sydney (Clifton Collins Jr.) as they strug­gle to bat­tle the ever-mutat­ing men­ace.

The best ele­ment of Stung is the pro­fes­sion­al­ism behind the cam­era: the film is slick­ly shot, has a snap­py pace and deliv­ers an array of both CGI and well-craft­ed prac­ti­cal make­up effects that will charm mon­ster fans with their scope and gus­to. Director Benni Diez comes from a visu­al effects back­ground and he’s able to blend the effects and the live action mate­ri­al in a most­ly seam­less way.

That said, Stung is ulti­mate­ly a bet­ter-real­ized, slight­ly smarter ver­sion of a SyFy Original t.v. movie despite its aspi­ra­tions to rein­vent­ing the form. Adam Aresty’s script tries to get the view­er invest­ed in the Julia/Paul rela­tion­ship but the char­ac­ters are too gener­ic and their inter­ac­tion is bla­tant­ly con­trived for an “oppo­sites attract” love sto­ry that nev­er takes flight because it so pre­dictable. Both Cook and O’Leary com­mit to their roles but they can’t help the sketchi­ly-defined romance rise above its for­mu­laic beats. It doesn’t help that O’Leary has a Stung-01ten­den­cy to over­play both the dra­ma and slap­stick in a way that is too self-con­scious.

However, the film is nev­er less than watch­able. Diez and com­pa­ny apply them­selves to their work with gus­to and main­tain a steady stream of FX-inten­sive set­pieces. It has two end­ings too many but it’s hard to get mad at a film so eager to deliv­er the goods. There’s also some fun in the char­ac­ter actor depart­ment from Henriksen, who is as smooth and pro­fes­sion­al as ever, and Collins Jr., who has fun play­ing again­st type as a well-to-do geek.

In short, Stung isn’t like­ly to become the next cult movie sen­sa­tion but it’s slick and event­ful enough to rate as a decent time-killer.

Blu-Ray Notes: Scream Factory recent­ly issued this title on blu-ray. The trans­fer for this dig­i­tal­ly shot film is suit­ably col­or­ful and detailed, han­dling day­light exte­ri­ors and dark inte­ri­ors with equal skill. 5.1 and 2.0 loss­less stereo tracks are offered: the 5.1 track was used for this review and its an event­ful mix Stung-02with plen­ty of sur­round activ­i­ty dur­ing the fre­quent bug action.

Scream Factory has also includ­ed a pack­age of extras. A com­men­tary fea­tures Diez, Aresty and pro­duc­er Benjamin Munz. It has plen­ty of details on the spe­cial effects, how the script was reworked for the shoot and some nice praise for Henriksen’s hard-work­ing style. A mak­ing-of piece runs 21 min­utes and mix­es EPK-style mate­ri­al with lots of on-set footage and glimpses into how the FX were staged.

A set of pro­duc­tion blogs also runs in the 20 min­ute range: the­se were done for the film’s Facebook site and fea­ture some good-natured goof­ing around on the set as well as a look at post-pro­duc­tion process. A trail­er wraps up the extras: it’s a fast-paced spot that exploits the film’s array of spe­cial effects with skill.