Sting movie review: A gross-out spider flick bogged down by tepid family drama

When Charlotte brings home a pet spider she has no idea she's inadvertently raising a killer with a thirst for human prey.
STING. Cr: Well Go USA
STING. Cr: Well Go USA /

Arachnophobes beware, it seems like 2024 is the year of giant spiders between movies like Spaceman, and Blumhouse's Imaginary. It's a nice change of pace from the usual demons and other entities that we've been seeing in horror movies. A sollid creature feature is always welcome in my book and that's what director Kiah Roache-Turner's latest movie Sting brings the table.

Spiders have been at the center of nightmares for generations now and have taken center-stage in plenty of campy B-movies like Eight Legged Freaks. So, what does Sting do to differentiate itself from the pack?

The spin in Sting is that the killer spider at its core is brought to earth from a random asteroid. Extraterrestrial spiders, it doesn't get much scarier than that, now does it. But Sting doesn't aim to do anything with its alien origins rather than use that as an waved-away explanation for why the spider is able to grow so incredibly fast in such a short span of time.

Alyla Browne is the heart of the movie as the curious young Charlotte (a riff on Charlotte's Web?). Charlotte is a rather dark-minded little girl who likes doing weird things to her grandmother's dolls and also takes the spider as a pet when she first finds it in a dollhouse, naming it after the Elven short-sword discovered by Bilbo Baggins in Lord of the Rings.

Charlotte delights in feeding Sting cockroaches and watching as it devours its prey, slowly growing in size from within its confines of a glass jar. Sting is at its best when its focusing purely on Charlotte and the spider's antics. Where it falls flat is the shoehorned family drama plotline that ends up bogging the movie down.

STING. Cr: Well Go USA /

See, Charlotte lives with her mother and her stepdad, Ethan. She and Ethan have created a popular comic book series "Fang Girl," which Ethan illustrates and Charlotte comes up with the stories for, there are obvious parallels between the comic and Charlotte's growing bond with Sting the real spider. Ethan and Charlotte's mom, Heather, also have a newborn named Leo who keeps them all busy and ups the stakes when the spider starts attacking.

But the main problem with Sting is that the family drama storyline makes for a rather boring creature feature. It takes too long for the actual creepy stuff to start happening and while the practical effects and Sting's massive size look great and plenty terrifying, by the time all of the B-movie carnage starts happening, it feels like a little too late in the story.

In short, I wanted way more of the creature violence from what I had hoped would be a bonkers and campy creature feature. Sting feels like it holds back too much, only divvying out the gross stuff in small doses when it should have gone full throttle. It's a short film that feels hemmed in by the constraints of perhaps its budget and a weak script.

That said, for those who really enjoy creature features, there are still some worthwhile set pieces here and the final act gets pretty gross and gnarly. I just wish there was more of that throughout as the previous suspense and build-up plays too coy with the spider attacks.

Sting is now playing in select theaters.

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