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Dustin Putman

Stung  (2015)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
2.5 Stars
(Release Date: November 3, 2015) – In ickily fun creature feature "Stung," a ritzy garden party at a rural New York manor is interrupted by insatiable wasps affected by fertilizer and growth hormones. The script by Adam Aresty is only so-so, but the onscreen realization of its gross, goopy, inventive ideas is pulled off quite well by director Benni Diez (making his feature debut). The unlikely heroes of the piece are Julia (Jessica Cook), who has recently inherited her late father's catering business, and semi-slacker employee Paul (Matt O'Leary), a bartender. They have arrived at a beautiful, old estate in the countryside (Germany not so believably stands in for the U.S. East Coast) for their latest gig, but the somewhat uppity celebration is rudely interrupted by an onslaught of fast-growing wasps that infect their prey from the inside out. As Paul and Julia fight for survival alongside the remaining guests—among them, mayor Caruthers (Lance Henriksen) and the dysfunctional mother-son hosts of the event, Mrs. Perch (Eve Slatner) and Sydney (Clifton Collins Jr.)—their traumatic experience also begins to bring them together romantically.

"Stung" was made for a trim $2.5-million, but its production values—particularly the tremendously savvy practical effects and capable, judiciously used CG—are often more accomplished than those found in some $100-million-plus blockbusters. The old-school leanings of the picture go a long way in allowing the viewer to buy into the crazy, horrific mayhem, especially as the oversized wasps begin ripping out of their victims, human heads still hideously attached to the insects' limbs. There are a few draggy spots in the middle act, but they are consistently offset by another attention-grabbing money shot or memorably tense situation. Reminding a bit of 1988's "The Nest" while one-upping it in terms of its cinematic vision and means, "Stung" boasts a lively level of showmanship which carries it through its rather predictable narrative course.

Read Dustin's Theatrical Review

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

"Stung" was shot by cinematographer Stephan Burchardt with Arri digital cameras, but it doesn't often have that steely, artificial appearance which many low-budget digital films have. The Blu-ray's 1080p transfer is quite solid, exhibiting satisfying image detail, slightly drab but accurate-to-source colors, and a clarity that truly showcases the superb effects team's work. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio grows surprisingly propulsive as the action and horror takes over, a mix that takes advantage of the full surround field, ostensibly transporting the viewer into the middle of the insect invasion. Dialogue is well-modulated for the most part, though an early van-set conversation between actors Matt O'Leary and Jessica Cook is briefly overshadowed by the soundtrack cue playing on the radio, making it difficult to understand a couple lines. Save for this observation, there is no downside to this dynamic audio track.

Blu-ray Features
  • Audio Commentary with director Benni Diez, producer Benjamin Munz, and writer Adam Aresty
  • "The Making of Stung" Featurette (21:25, HD)
  • Production Blogs (21:30, HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:12, HD)
Bottom Line
The distribution partnership between IFC Midnight and Scream Factory has been a match made in heaven, the horror arm of Shout! Factory casting a spotlight on certain titles that may have otherwise only received a fuzzy-def DVD release. "Stung" will likely be a happy discovery for fans of nature-run-amok cinema who, without Scream Factory's participation, wouldn't have been aware of this film's existence. For them and even casual horror-comedy fans, it certainly delivers the goods. "Stung" comes recommended on Blu-ray.

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© 2015 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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