Stung (2015): Eight Legged Freaks with Wings

It might possibly be too picky to point out that the mustache on Lance Henriksen changes several times throughout the film but apart from this annoying occurrence, Stung is really just Eight Legged Freaks, with wings.

Matt O'Leary in Stung

It might possibly be too picky to point out that the mustache  on Lance Henriksen changes several times throughout the film but apart from this annoying occurrence, Stung is really just Eight Legged Freaks, with wings.  Granted, also missing are David Arquette and these “killer wasps” may have a bit more in common with Irwin Allen’s 1978 film The Swarm, but this horror film does have its moments.

Taking a page from the old Roger Corman theme of mankind messing with nature and paying the price, Stung is the first full length feature film to be directed by Benni Diez  from a script by Adam Aresty.  The film stars Matt O’Leary, Jessica Cook, Clifton Collins Jr. and, of course Henriksen.

A garden party goes madly awry when giant wasps attack the members of the event. These mutations inject fast growing larvae into their victims which results in seven foot long wasps with attitude attacking anything that moves.

There are a few stand out moments, apart from Henriksen’s mutating mustache.  The face on a wasp’s leg is quite impressive as is the dog scene later on.  Like Eight Legged Freaks these monstrous wasps make noises that are not insect-like and more amusing than frightening.  Unlike the David Arquette vehicle, however,  this comedy horror is more adult in nature and does not have quite as “happy” an ending.

With more “f**ks” than the entirety of Beverly Hills Cop (the first one) this is not for kids.  The gore factor is quite OTT but to be honest it is more of the “goo variety” and less about blood and guts, although there are a few “yuck” moments.

Lance Henriksen, as the “name” attached to the film, manages to make it through a good portion of the film before he, and his magic mustache, come to an explosive end.

Later in the film, at least one other classic horror film is given a big nod and wink, The Thing with Two Heads

The old dame whose party the wasps ruin, has a son, Sidney (Collins Jr.) who looks for all the world like a  living homage to the late actor Klaus Kinski from For a Few Dollars More. Long hair, glasses and a hump that later turns into the head of a giant wasp.

The film is good fun in many ways, after all how can one not enjoy a scene where three different characters say one very funny line?

Sydney: “Holy”

Julia: “Mother”

Caruthers: “F**ker.”

This in response to the three witnessing a rather grizzly and impressive birthing of yet another giant wasp.

Stung is entertaining and mildly amusing.  Like the “Drive In” movies it emulates and pays homage to, it really does feel like a throw back to the halcyon days of Corman.  The film is slowly paced, hence the ability to notice that Caruthers’ hairy upper lip kept changing its appearance, which does hurt it somewhat.

Overall, potty language aside, this is a good time to be had by almost all.  Although, sadly the two leads, Cook and O’Leary, never really gel. The two have no chemistry and while their awkward interactions fit the script they just never really feel like a possible couple.  Obviously this is the intent, from the beginning each character is caught up in their own world, but when the film progresses their “relationship” does not.

Odd and quirky, Stung has given the horror fan a slew of references to giggle at but the slow almost dragging pace of the film keeps many moments from ever reaching true hilarity or any real horrific payoff. This one is a 3.5 out of 5 stars for the homages alone and O’Leary’s performance could almost have taken the film to another level…almost.

Time Lapse (2014): Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents in One

Discovering the body in Time Lapse
The 2014 film Time Lapse is Bradley King‘s first full length feature as a director. He co-wrote the film with producer BP Cooper and the film is combination of  thriller and science fiction genres and feels like a mix of The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents all rolled into one. The basic plot draws from the old Rod Serling classic series from an episode about a camera stolen by two thieves.

While the story may have admittedly been influenced by A Most Unusual Camera it also has elements of another “Zone” episode (that starred William Shatner in his pre-Kirk days on Star Trek) titled Nick of Time.  The blend is that in the first instance a camera appears to tell the future and in the second, a fortune telling machine dictates a young couple’s actions. In a nutshell, this is the plot behind Time Lapse; a camera that tells the future and a trio of people who alter their actions to match the photos. The Alfred Hitchcock connection is the twist at the end and the overall “feel” of the film.

Starring Danielle Panabaker (The Flash, The Crazies), Matt O’Leary (Brick, Live Free or Die Hard) and George Finn (LOL, Just Before I Go) are the three young adults who share an apartment. O’Leary is frustrated painter Finn, Panabaker is his writer girlfriend Callie and Finn is Jasper a free spirit who self medicates and gambles. Their neighbor, Mr Bezzerides lives across the way and he has a camera. The machine takes pictures that feature events 24 hours in the future.

Bezzerides  falls behind in his rent and Finn, who is the apartment complex’s manager is called by the landlord. Callie goes to check and they find the camera and shortly after, the man’s body.  The three get caught up in the device, which makes Jasper a load of money from bets, cures Finn’s “painter’s block” and helps Callie get her boyfriend back.

The good fortune from knowing their immediate future soon turns into a trap where they must “match” the pictures to insure their safety.

This small budgeted exercise is entertaining in an old-fashioned sense. Story heavy and not overloaded with special effects. The actors all do a great job filling out their characters so that the twist at the end is sold very well.

In terms of characters there were two British actors in the cast who both get short shrifted before the end credits roll.

Welsh actor John Rhys-Davies (who is almost a staple in any film requiring a deep  voiced “Brit”) was cast as Bezzerides but apart from a  photograph, never appears. Apparently the  performer filmed two scenes that wound up on the cutting room floor.  The end result feature the picture and nothing else.

Liverpool born award winning actress Sharon Maughan,  (Who starred in those Nescafe “Gold Blend” adverts with Anthony Head years ago and who is Mrs. Trevor Eve when she isn’t working in US Indie films.) has a tiny cameo where she, at least, is heard and seen before being dispatched rather quickly.  It looks like the foreigners were hard done by in this entertaining little film.

There are some plot holes to be sure. Anything dealing with time issues, fortune telling and changing fates always end up with holes big enough to drive a Mack truck through, but the film works regardless. The conviction of the actors combined with King’s direction makes the whole thing work.

The presentation is not flawless, for one thing it does feel a little like a pilot for a TV series. There are things that jar but to be far, the end of the film proves that the trip there was not so fraught with inconsistencies that it influenced the message. Essentially the final word from the film is, as one character says, messing with time winds up punishing someone in the end.

Time Lapse may feel a little like a TV “Movie of the Week” but it is a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars, despite the cutting of Davies’ presence except for a photo. Streaming on US Netflix at the moment, this is well worth a look.