After raising an unnervingly talented spider in secret, 12-year-old Charlotte must face the facts about her pet-and fight for her family’s survival-when the once-charming creature rapidly transforms into a giant, flesh-eating monster.

Chuck says:

There’s a lot of fun to be had with Kiah Roache-Turner’s “Sting,” a wannabe throwback to the sci-fi flicks of the 1950’s revolving around an alien spider that grows at an alarmingly fast rate. Set in New York City during a paralyzing snowstorm, the director uses the confined space of a turn-of-the century tenement to great effect, as a band of trapped, eccentric characters do their best to fend off the out-of-this-world creepy crawly that plagues them. However, though running just a bit over 90 minutes, the movie regrettably lags at times, undercutting the urgency at hand.

Charlotte (Alyla Browne) has been dealing with a great many changes in her life.  The 12-year-old still hasn’t gotten over her father having left her and her mother (Penelope Mitchell) some three years ago and is still keeping her new husband, Ethan (Ryan Corr) at arm’s length. The fact the newlyweds have welcomed a newborn into the family certainly hasn’t helped her sense of alienation. It’s no surprise then that she’s in need of a friend and takes notice of a rather unique arachnid that she finds in her room. Keeping it in a jar and feeding it insects, she becomes alarmed by how quickly it is growing. What she doesn’t realize is how smart this thing from another world is and that it has to ability to unscrew the lid of the jar it’s contained in.

Soon, Sting – the name Charlotte has given her new friend – escapes into the duct system of the building to hunt. This is the same network we’ve seen our young heroine traverse earlier in the film, using it to spy on neighbors -among them an obsessive biology student (Danny Kim) and a melancholy widow (Silvia Colloca)-and infiltrate the apartment where her senile grandmother (Noni Hazelhurst) and her companion (Robyn Nevin) live. Roache-Turner’s camera smoothly glides through these convenient aluminum passageways, giving the film a sense of energy, whether it’s Charlotte or her wayward pet on the move.

The relationship between Charlotte and Ethan is the focal point of the non-arachnid subplot and while it’s needed to give the story substance, it manages to weigh it down as well. The girl is a prodigy, the creator of a unique comic book heroine, while her stepfather just happens to be an illustrator charged with bringing these adventures to four-color life. The moments between them, when discussing their collaboration, are effective but go on too long, as do other moments dealing with the tension between them. Scenes involving the small cast of characters don’t drag too much but their placement within the script proves detrimental. Having introduced the threat, far too much time is spent dealing with interactions among the tenants that ultimately mean nothing. Once the spider is loose, we need to see it do what it does, not prolong the suspense to the point of tedium.

That being said, the monster effects are quite good, a combination of practical effects and computer graphic wizardry. Anyone with arachnophobia will be well advised to stay away. Also adding to the fun is Jermaine Fowler as an unfortunate exterminator who finds himself in way over his head.

In the end, “Sting” proves to be a mixed bag. It’s initial sense of fun fades, only recurring sporadically, while some lapses in logic during the third act undercut the narrative’s credibility at critical moments. Still, the spider is cool and Browne channeling her inner Sigourney Weaver to become a pint-sized Ripley tracking down the web spinning threat is a hoot.

2 1/2 Stars

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