Sting is an enjoyably camp horror effort that backs its gross effects with some emotional heft: Gold Coast Film Festival Review

Given the ambition he showed with his Mad Max-meets-Dawn of the Dead B-grade genre piece Wyrmwood (and its respective sequel), it makes sense that Australian director Kiah Roache-Turner would continue his genre mash-ups for his follow-up.  What proves surprising, however, is that for Sting, an ode to the creature feature (and, fittingly, Australia’s fear of the venomous arthropods), he’s blended such a mentality with a family drama, resulting in an occasionally unbalanced, but no less enjoyably camp horror effort that backs its gross effects with some emotional heft.

At the centre of the eventual lunacy is Charlotte (Alyla Browne, soon to be seen in George Miller’s Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga as the younger iteration of the titular character) – and yes, that name is suitably on the nose given the actions that take place – an artist-in-waiting who’s taken a particular shine to her stepfather, Ethan (Ryan Corr).  Just why their relationship is as important as it is is one of Roache-Turner’s emotional pivots throughout the brisk 91 minutes, but more pressing is her unorthodox “adoption” of a rogue spider she comes across one night as she sneaks through the vents of the New York-set apartment complex overseen by her wicked great-aunt, Gunter (Robyn Nevin, clearly enjoying herself as the archetypal human villain of the piece).

The opening credits clue us in that this spider is alien in nature, which explains why in a matter of hours it increases in size, and how it’s able to vocally mimic particular sounds it hears; Charlotte is all too excited to showcase Sting’s “feeding call” to inquisitive downstairs neighbour Erik (a wonderfully deadpan Danny Kim), who, in return, is rightfully concerned about just what type of species she has willingly let into her house.

As much as Erik warns Ethan and Heather (Penelope Mitchell), Charlotte’s mother, about this 8-legged-monster-in-waiting, we all know it will ultimately be for nought as we eagerly await the moment it outgrows its containment and proceeds to feed on whoever (or whatever) enters its path; note, for those that don’t respond well to the idea of animals hurting other animals, Sting doesn’t play well with others.

The final act of the film is suitably exciting and squirm-inducing as Sting terrorises Charlotte and her family, but Roache-Turner wisely peppers enough gory set-pieces throughout so that we aren’t simply waiting for the horrific conclusion.  Some of the family drama works in between (the dementia setting in for Charlotte’s grandmother, played by a delightful Noni Hazlehurst, is sweet), but there are a few too many moments that stall momentum, which could potentially see audiences check out.  This is a knowingly mindless horror feature and Charlotte’s fatherly woes won’t necessarily hold interest to those who want to see a giant spider crawl into a downstairs neighbour’s mouth and then bust out of their stomach; there’s a reason such an example is specific.

Ultimately the good outweighs the bad when it comes to Sting‘s temperament as a film, mainly due to how much fun it’s having, how heavy its winks are at the audience, and that Jermaine Fowler (who was most likely still hanging around our fair country following Ricky Stanicky‘s Melbourne wrap) adds suitable humour as a put-upon exterminator.  A little Evil Dead, a little Arachnophobia, and a lot of gooey, practical effects, Sting is Roache-Turner’s most accomplished film thus far.  And if this leap in quality between the zombies of Wyrmwood and the bite of this is indicative of his directorial trajectory, his turn as a genre mainstay is only increasingly going to prove more exciting with every shed of blood he gloriously unleashes on screen.


Sting is screening as part of this year’s Gold Coast Film Festival, which is running between April 17th – 28th, 2024, before being released in Australian theatres on July 11th, 2024.


Peter Gray

Seasoned film critic. Gives a great interview. Penchant for horror. Unashamed fan of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Momoa.