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Paul Asay

Movie Review

Let’s just get the story’s most-important lesson out of the way now: Spiders do not make great pets.

Oh, I know—some of you are probably cradling your cute little tarantulas even as you read this, scratching their furry abdomens and doing your best to teach them how to play fetch. But let me be candid: Your tarantula does not love you. And it will never, ever learn how to play fetch.

Charlotte would’ve disagreed. The 12-year-old girl thought that her spider—a mysterious arachnid that arrived via tiny meteor and landed in her apartment building—was the coolest, smartest, bestest spider ever.

And sure, Charlotte would’ve been about two-thirds right. After all, it’s not every spider who whistles when it wants food, or who can imitate the voice of your closest relatives.

But bestest? An ill-fated, half-eaten parrot in Charlotte’s building would beg to differ … if it could.

Another disturbing element? The spider—which Charlotte names Sting, after Bilbo Baggins’ sword in The Hobbit—just keeps growing.

No, Charlotte’s beloved spider is not quite the pet that she imagines it to be. In the spider’s mind, the living creatures around it fall, ultimately, into two categories: breakfast and dinner. And as it gets bigger, so does its menu.

Positive Elements

Charlotte has more than a spider to keep her company, of course. She has a whole family to deal with. And while the adolescent girl often would rather not be bothered by them, they clearly love her. Indeed, Charlotte’s relationship with her stepfather, Ethan Miller (though, admittedly, I’m not sure if he and Charlotte’s mom are actually married), forms the emotional core of the movie.

Ethan is the building’s superintendent—hammering away at the finicky boiler and pesky pipes when necessity demands. But he’s also an artist, and he and Charlotte are working on a comic book that shows plenty of promise. And while Ethan worries that he falls short in Charlotte’s eyes to her birth father, her mom, Heather, notes that Charlotte never showed an interest in art before Ethan came along, and the young girl wants to spend time with him constantly. “You’re her biggest hero,” Heather says. “What do you need, a roadmap?”

Ethan and Charlotte’s relationship gets a little, shall we say, tangled. Charlotte’s birth dad split years ago and never visits, so there’s some abandonment anxiety lurking underneath Charlotte’s tough exterior. Some tell Ethan that Charlotte is worried that Ethan will leave her. One character essentially assumes that he will. But in a critical moment, Ethan reassures Charlotte that he’ll stick with her, no matter the cost. “I am never going to leave you,” he tells her. And he’s good for his word. In a film filled with blood, this is where it shows its heart.

Also surprisingly sweet in an otherwise not-so-sweet movie: the affection the whole family shows Helga, Heather’s dementia-riddled mother. While Helga is often used to inject a bit of comedy into the film, she’s also sweet, kind and as well-meaning as she can be. Heather cares for her from the apartment below, tucking her in at night and accepting, with a smile, when Helga tells her that she should meet her “daughter.” And Charlotte, when things look bad, gives Helga some strong, easy survival advice and a tender kiss on the head before leaving.

Charlotte and others show brave, can-do attitudes in some of the movie’s darker moments.

Spiritual Elements

A comic that Charlotte reads shows the main character—who may be based on Charlotte herself—holding her dying dad. Using all of her comic-book powers, the character manages to bring her dad back from death. Later, Charlotte tries to use the same technique on someone she loves, too.

When Heather’s aunt, Gunter, makes a demeaning comment, Heather asks her, “Isn’t there a broomstick that needs riding?”

Sexual Content

Heather and Ethan kiss once or twice. “You are so beautiful,” Ethan tells Heather. A woman wears cleavage-and-midriff-revealing sleepwear.

When an exterminator sees a dead, mauled parrot stripped of its feathers, he quips that it “looks like it tried to have sex with a blender.”

Which feels like a fitting place to move to the next section.

Violent Content

Sting’s eating habits start relatively small. Charlotte feeds him the occasional cockroach (of which there are many), which the spider traps and sucks dry before Charlotte can say, “cool.” But as you should know by now, Sting has bigger quarry in mind. In addition to the parrot, a cat meets its end, leaving behind a grotesque corpse strung up in a web.

But why stop there? Sting doesn’t.

We’re told that many spiders like to eat their prey while they’re still alive, and we see evidence of this. Human corpses, still living, are trapped in webs to await Sting’s pleasure. Many characters are paralyzed and severely bloodied before they’re dragged into the apartment’s venting system. (When they’re not so paralyzed, they scream as the arachnid yanks them into darkness.)

When the spider’s still relatively small, it makes its way in and out of someone’s (horrified, living) body before cutting itself out with one of its legs. Another victim lies motionless but still living, coughing up blood as he lays on his back. Still another victim essentially vanishes in an explosion of blood.

The spider bleeds, too: A nail gun draws what appears to be blue fluid from the animal. In learning how to care for her new pet, Charlotte watches nature videos that depict some of the more unsavory habits of real spiders—including a massive tarantula devouring a lizard. The apartment of an amateur biologist contains a half-dissected fish. Blood coats many an apartment floor. Ethan’s comics and Charlotte’s artwork contain some violent, creepy imagery.

Someone bleeding heavily from the head—from the effect of injury, alcohol or toxin—falls and hits her head on the edge of a bathtub, where she lies bleeding and helpless.

It’s insinuated that Maria, a woman living in the apartment building, lost her family somehow, and one of her children died tragically. When Ethan quips that kids are like rubber balls and bounce back from many injuries, Maria grows sad, and Ethan—looking at Maria’s treasured family portrait—quickly apologizes. Ethan pounds a boiler in the basement, much to the consternation of the building’s owner.

Crude or Profane Language

About 20 uses of the f-word and another half-dozen of the s-word. We also hear “a–,” “b–ch”, “d–n,” “h—” and “p-ssed.” God’s name is misused five times (twice with the word “d–n”), and Jesus’ name is abused once.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Maria, we’re told, drinks heavily. We see her take massive, messy swigs out of a blender jar (which can infer contains alcohol). She also grabs a bottle of pills from a cabinet full of them.

Ethan drinks beer while working on his art. When he comes into Charlotte’s bedroom to tell her that he loves her, she asks, “Have you been drinking?” “Just enough to keep me honest,” he tells her.

Characters drink wine with dinner. Gunter appears to get seriously sloshed.

Other Negative Elements

Several characters vomit a bit—sometimes on each other—as a result of the spider’s venom. Ethan and Heather’s infant son throws food in his father’s face (earning a whispered profanity).

Gunter, who owns the building, seems cruel and unfeeling. She hires an exterminator, and when he finishes the job, she insists that she’ll only pay half of what was promised. (“You lack character,” the exterminator says.) She fires Ethan as the building superintendent, calling him a weak man. “And like all weak men, when the going gets hard, you leave,” she rails.

Charlotte idolizes her birth father, and she believes she hasn’t seen him for a while because he lives in Thailand. But Heather and Ethan have long kept the truth from her: He’s just a 25-minute drive away and has never come to visit.

Other characters lie, as well. Nasty, foul-smelling ooze permeates the building. We hear that Charlotte’s infant brother tends to eat things he shouldn’t—like paint.


You’ll never know how many movies you never wanted to see until your job is to see them. And the R-rated horror film Sting was perhaps one of the year’s shortest of short straws in the Plugged In office. While it boasts a 72% “freshness” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, not a lot of Plugged In reviewers long to watch a movie about a serial-killing, messy-eating giant spider.

And through that lens, Sting was still a mildly pleasant surprise.

I wasn’t expecting the film to have such a nice father-daughter message at its core—or for it to treat a dementia-riddled grandma with some respect. Even in horror flicks, it’s the human connection between characters that often makes for a compelling story, not the fake blood or quality of monster or number of screams per minute. It’s about relationship, and this film didn’t scrimp on that front.

But it also didn’t scrimp on any other front, either: the blood, the screams, the monstrosity at the story’s center. Sure, the film had some nice moments. But those moments were submerged in gore and ook and shlocky shock. It’s a pretty tawdry outlay of grotesquerie, and it forces a child actress—the excellent Alyla Brown—to stand at its center. She anchors a movie that, without an adult, she’d technically be too young to see. And while I know that films often take care to protect their young stars from the full weight of the content therein, it still makes me wince.

Sting fits its name. Its characters are stung by difficult relationships as much as its namesake spider stings with its bite. But the film stings its viewers, too—their eyes and ears. And the hurt just might last longer than you expect.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.