“Sting” is a Familiar Story Bolstered by An Impressive Execution

Is there anything more monstrous in the natural world than a spider? These eight-legged beasts creep around with stealthy determination and wait just out of sight for the moment we let our guards down. Whether hunters or web-building trappers, there’s something unnerving about these crawling nightmares and ten bucks says you’re reaching down to investigate that itch on your ankle as you’re reading this right now. Just the thought of these bugs makes our skin crawl and many of us live in fear of discovering one in our general vicinity. And those are the normal spiders. Add alien intelligence, rapid growth, and superior strength and you’ve got one of the most feared beasts the world has ever known. That’s the enemy we meet in Sting, Kiah Roache-Turner’s skin-crawling horror comedy that pits an ordinary family against a super-powered arachnid. 

Charlotte (Alyla Browne) is a child still trying to adjust to her new stepdad and newborn half-brother. This disaffected tween spends her days creeping around the air ducts in her ramshackle apartment building while working on comic book art along with Ethan (Ryan Corr),  her mom’s boyfriend turned father figure who’s also struggling to navigate this burgeoning family. While snooping in her grandmother’s upstairs unit, she discovers a tiny spider she decides to call Sting. This small arachnid possesses advanced intelligence and develops the ability to communicate through whistling. Even more ominous, the once tiny spider begins to rapidly expand and resists any attempt at containment. As Sting continues to grow and bond with the rebellious girl, the apartment building becomes a hunting ground with no prey too big to fall into its nightmarish grasp. 

We meet this tiny nightmare right away as it barrels to earth in a meteor-like shell and crashlands in an ornate dollhouse. This cheeky introduction sets the tone for an endearing alien-human partnership more akin to ET than Jaws. Unfortunately, Sting’s monstrosity quickly emerges. Highly intelligent, it’s able to trap and stun its victims then slowly suck the life out of them leaving little more than a melted chunk of gooey flesh that once resembled a living thing. Sting continues to grow, soon large enough to attack a fully-grown man. Roache-Turner makes eerie use of shadow and light, hinting at Sting’s increasing size and talent for manipulation while keeping the monster mostly hidden in shadows – where the real spiders dwell. 

With a blizzard raging outside and a building that’s falling apart, the film has a distinctly claustrophobic feel. Charlotte’s mother Heather (Penelope Mitchell) is trying to manage full time remote work while raising an infant and caring for elderly relatives on an upper floor. The building itself is falling apart and Ethan is desperately trying to finish a graphic novel while serving as caretaker to make ends meet. While nothing we haven’t seen before, this stressful dynamic hits differently post-covid. We sympathize with this likable family and feel trapped alongside them as this mystifying monster spins an inescapable web.

In the midst of this terror, a touching family drama unfolds. This too is nothing we haven’t seen before – child struggles to accept a new parental figure – but Browne and Corr smooth over the predictability with endearing performances tinged with a sharp edge. Two older relatives live in another apartment, one with severe dementia and another who is comically unpleasant. Though cartoonish in her cruelty, Gunter (Robyn Nevin) adds delightful sarcasm and delicious catharsis when she meets her inevitable end. Jermaine Fowler offers a breath of fresh air as Frank, an over-it pest control worker. He too feels a tad derivative, but again the execution works and he doesn’t overstay his welcome. 
Sting is nothing we haven’t seen before. A horrifying monster targets a disaffected child and tries to take down a family already on the brink of ruin. Said family discovers their love for each other and a newfound positivity while trying to overcome the powerful threat. But Roache-Turner imbues the film with a razor-sharp wit and threatens characters we’ve been trained to assume will be safe. But Sting doesn’t care. This irreverent spider will use its superior intelligence to kill anyone and everyone, ensnaring the audience in an intoxicating, if predictable, web.

enn Adams is a writer, podcaster, and film critic from Nashville, TN. Find her social media nonsense @jennferatu.