"We are thrown headlong into a remake of Aliens, only with a mansion instead of a space colony and caterers instead of marines. The surprise is that it works."

"I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created parasitic wasps with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars," said Charles Darwin, questioning the religion that had guided him all his life when confronted with the reality of Ichneumonidae. Their life cycle is certainly disturbing and was part of the inspiration for Alien. Now self-confessed spheksophobic Benni Diez has decided to explore it more directly, albeit in giant mutant form - this is a traditional creature feature, after all.

Jessica Cook is Julia, "born to cater," throwing a garden party for an assortment of wealthy, ageing, bored Americans - the other sort of WASP. Clifton Collins Jr. is Sydney, her loyal bartender, keen to seduce her but not really very good at such things. He can juggle. He can joke with the guests (albeit not always successfully). And as luck would have it, when deadly insects come bursting out of a lawn that has bee treated with a very special fertiliser, he's pretty good at figuring out how to respond.

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Stung doesn't waste any time. Before we know it we're inside the house, looking nervously at the large plate glass windows. By this time we already know that anybody who gets injected with wasp goo is likely to peel open, revealing a giant wasp that's been gestating inside. Mother doesn't look well but Sydney, the house's owner, can't bear the thought of leaving her behind. The housekeeper is also looking unwell. About the only person keeping his cool is Lance Henriksen's suave politician, whose first response upon being herded down to the cellar is to size up the wine rack. Henriksen has been in endless shallow imitations of Aliens in the past 29 years and clearly relishes having a properly written role that he can get his teeth into, plus it's refreshing to see a politician in a creature feature who is sympathetic and smart and doesn't immediately decide to hold a festival next to the monsters' lair. There wouldn't be enough people for that anyway, as the cast gets munched through pretty rapidly.

The problem with all this enthusiastic eating - portrayed in spectacularly gory detail - is that it leaves the plot with nowhere to go. Then the lights go out. "How would they know to cut the electricity?" someone asks, and with that we are thrown headlong into a remake of Aliens, only with a mansion instead of a space colony and caterers instead of marines. The surprise is that it works. Somehow, Diez manages to pull it off, and in the process rekindles the energy and enthusiasm that the film had been beginning to run out of. As Sydney slips into the combined role of Newt and Hicks, Julia's heroism comes to the fore, and it's fun trying to work out how certain key scenes will be recreated. After all, the site needs to be nuked from orbit if we want to be sure.

Diez's wasps are animated with a combination of model work and CGI that, though not seamless, places the visual effects in this film a cut above most contemporary work. Both lead actors are likeable, delivering the right balance of comedy and drama, and apart from that little slip in the middle the pacing is good, Diez's direction unfussy and effective. There are quite a few scenes here that are not for the faint-hearted, but lovers of bloody, lighthearted horror will thoroughly enjoy themselves.

Reviewed on: 23 Oct 2015
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Parasitic wasps party on down.

Director: Benni Diez

Writer: Adam Aresty, Adam Aresty

Starring: Lance Henriksen, Clifton Collins Jr., Matt O'Leary, Jessica Cook, Florentine Lahme, Daniele Rizzo, David Masterson, Cecilia Pillado, Kathleen Renish, Eve Slatner, Tony de Maeyer

Year: 2015

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Germany, US

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