STING Review: Kiah Roache-Turner's Monster Spider Movie Delivers Thrills, Chills And Shrills

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STING Review: Kiah Roache-Turner's Monster Spider Movie Delivers Thrills, Chills And Shrills
On a cold, snowy, blustery winter night in New York a meteor pierces the sky, hurtling towards an apartment building in the city. The size of a walnut it punches through a window and then the roof of a dollhouse belonging to Charlotte’s aunt, Gunter. The meteor opens up, and a tiny spider crawls out and starts to explore the dollhouse.
Young Charlotte kicks through the air vent cover and enters the locked room, using the network of vents to travel from floor to floor. Her aunt owns the building and Charlotte lives there with her mom, step-dad Ethan, and baby brother. Choosing her next victim among the dolls lying around the house Charlotte comes across the spider and takes it with her back to her apartment.
Enamored with small creature she names it Sting, after a literary cue on her bookshelf (Because Shelob just does not have the same “Ring” to it). Unaware of its origin and worse, its intentions, Charlotte does not know what Sting will become after it feeds on increasingly larger prey. 
Having delivered a trifecta of comedy horror films over the years that center around dealing with variations of the undead - two Wyrmwood films and Nekrotronic - Australian director Kiah Roache-Turner turns his attention to the (un)natural world, starting with the mutant spider movie, Sting. Having a perfectly normal fear of anthropods is not unusual. However, Kiah lives in a country where spiders can be a big as a pizza box. That fear is perfectly normal. Roache-Turner ups the ante by letting this creature grow substantially larger than that. 
The heart of Sting is the relationship between Charlotte (Get it? Cause, web?) and her step-dad, Ethan. Together they have a comic book that Ethan is trying to launch but he also works as the superintendent of the building, taking Aunt Gunter’s order barking on the chin. It is a tricky relationship as Charlotte still holds out hope that her birth father will return "from overseas" one day. She’s not quite ready to fully open up to Ethan and the slightest misstep puts him in her bad books. Ethan wants to be the dad that Charlotte never had but the stress of dealing with the building needs and the pressure to land the comic book deal are starting to mount up. To that end both Alyla Browne and Ryan Corr stick the landing, as a step-daughter and step-father just trying to get along. Browne is a star in the making. 
Penelope Mitchell is their mother and wife, Heather, trying to mediate between the two, raise a newborn son, and work from home at the same time. Robyn Nevin is great as the cruel aunt and landord, Gunter ‘Deville’ (the Deville part is extra for writer emphasis of just how cruel she is). Her sister and Heather's mom, Helga, played by Noni Hazlehurst is an avenue of heart and humor as the mom/aunt stricken with Alzheimers. American actor Jermaine Fowler is the leading source of comic relief in between the scares as pest controller Frank. Silvia Colloca taps into sadness and cruel fate as their Spanish neighbour Maria, and Danny Kim adds to the ominous buildup as the mysterious university biology student, Erik. 
There are traits in the filmmaking, things that I have come to appreciate as Roache-Turner’s signatures or fingerprints in his movies. They include swift camera movements: tracking, pans and dollies. He's always liked doing Sam Raimi-like montages, specifically when Charlotte prepares for Roache-Turner's nod to Ellen Ripley. Then there is the tricked out mechanical equipment, with that Roache-Turner knob/light festish, in a basement that reminiscent of the doctors’ lairs in both Wyrmwood movies. 
On reflection you realize the creativity that went into the title sequence as Sting explores the dollhouse. Roache-Turner’s messing around with our perception more than once here. We think the meteor is big when it’s the size of a walnut by the time is smashes through the window. Sting is a teeny tiny spider when they hatch from the meteor egg but as they explore the dollhouse what you don’t know at first is that you’re looking at what will soon to be to scale when Sting grows exponentially to a monstrous size, and grabbing full-grown humans. 
Is Sting scary? Fuck, yes. Especially if you hate spiders. Yes, admittedly my response to Sting was amplified by my own innate fear of the eight-legged bastards, so I watched it again. Knowing where the big jump scares were set I was better prepared the next time around but I still got bad cases of the heebeejeebees at the right/wrong times. Instead of abject fear I was able to push past those scares and prepare for the skin-crawling moments. It remained wholly effective on that repeat viewing. I aniticipate catching this with an audience upon its release and appreciating their reaction to those moments. 
Old school horror fans will appreciate the practical, puppet effects used in the climax and there is an appropriate amount of blood and gore at the right times. Not too much as to put off those with weak constitutions. Just the right amount of damage that can be caused by a large mutant spider. The sound design from Lachlan Harris creates mystery, fear and terror, beautifully. In that order from beginning to end. 
Sting is the complete package. I'll borrow some words from our own Peter Martin that he shared for publicity purposes after watching it: Sting is "fresh, funny, and frightening". Roache-Turner literally poured his heart and soul into this one, drawing from his own life experiences while creating it. That's probably why it is so easy to be drawn by the heart of this story, the relationship between Charlotte and Ethan, before Roache-Turner twists all those knobs and pushes all those buttons of his to increase your own heartbeats with scares and scenes of terror. 
There are not many horror flicks that do this well, draw you into that central relationship. Humor is used sparingly here, as a release but not much more. Much less than Sting's predecessors Wyrmwood and Nekrotronic. Roache-Turner is having more fun twisting the screw of terror and making your skin crawl with terrific and frightening scares. 
As Sting grows so do our fears. How big will it get? What will happen then? Is anyone safe? The answers are very, a lot, and nope. Sting is best seen with a crowd, I imagine. I've watched it twice at home, between my fingers over my eyes. 

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