A South Brooklyn apartment in the midst of an ice storm, exterminator Frank has been called to attend by elderly and confused Helga who thinks there are animals in the vents; he’s been called out before and found nothing, but this time even before he enters the block he finds the van of his competitors the Bug Brothers parked outside, and inside Helga’s darkened home he finds blood on the floorboards and an abandoned hard hat…

Across from Helga lives her frosty and disapproving sister Gunter, while downstairs is her architect daughter Heather and her husband Ethan, working as handyman for the block by day and comic book artist by night, new baby Liam and twelve year old Charlotte, Heather’s daughter by her first husband who abandoned them both, a surly child who is constantly antagonistic to her mother but has recently acquired a new pet, an unusual spider which mimics the calls of the prey it hunts and grows in size with every feeding which Charlotte has named Sting…

An Australian production with an Australian cast though inexplicably taking place in America for presumably commercial reasons as did The Tank, that setting allows the inclement weather which might have been used as a narrative tool to prevent the characters from leaving the block though with the question never raised it becomes as superfluous to the story of Sting as does the meteor fragment which bears the titular visitor.

Director and writer Kiah Roache-Turner depicting a very different malign extra-terrestrial influence from that of his two Wyrmwood films, Road of the Dead and Apocalypse, where those features were wild road movies of crazed excess and carnage Sting is disappointingly subdued, set in a series of apartments dimly lit yet possessed of preposterously sized ventilation shafts, allowing first Charlotte (Furiosa’s Alyla Browne) then her carnivorous pet universal access to potential feeding grounds.

Charlotte’s web extending from the darkened basement with its cranky trash compactor to upstairs at Eric’s, a biologist whose convenient expertise on arachnids produces nothing more than the suggestion that Sting might be venomous, what should be a mad monster romp spends too much time tangled in family relationships, exasperated Heather (Star Trek Picard’s Penelope Mitchell), doting but exhausted Ethan (Wolf Creek 2’s Ryan Corr) and resentful Gunter (Relic’s Robyn Nevin), characters who fail to engage with each other or the viewer.

Consistently playing safe as though courting a family audience when it should be dragging them to its lair, with a meagre body count, judiciously reserved profanity, scant gore and only mild threat the best moments of Sting are two jump scares of misdirection emanating from the otherwise pervasive shadows which create a dull atmosphere of gloom rather than sinister threat, the weaving of the strands lacking the skill of semi-senile Helga (The Sullivans’ Noni Hazelhurst) as she knits another jumper to sit among the mothballs.

Sting is on general release from Friday 31st May



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