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Danny Kim and Ryan Corr study a strange new threat in their apartment building in "Sting." Courtesy StudioCanal

Like many people, I have seen the superbly funny YouTube clip where film director Kevin Smith describes his experiences working on an aborted Superman movie during the 1990s. The project’s weirdly spider-obsessed producer Jon Peters instructed Smith that the film had to climax with Superman fighting a giant spider, because Peters thought spiders were so badass. Peters’ penchant for hard drugs and groping women got him exiled from the movie industry, but he would have loved being involved with Sting, a horror movie that opens this weekend and just barely manages to inject some freshness into the killer-spider subgenre.

The movie is set in a snowed-in New York City, but it was actually filmed in a studio in Sydney with actors from Down Under. The only American cast member is Jermaine Fowler as an exterminator who opens the film by paying a house call at an apartment building. He thinks he’s dealing with rats before he finds the previous exterminators’ half-digested corpses. The bulk of the story takes place in the four days leading up to that, as our 12-year-old protagonist with the ironic name of Charlotte (Alyla Browne) finds a tiny spider in her grandmother’s apartment and takes it to her own apartment elsewhere in the building. She names her new pet Sting, after perusing a copy of The Hobbit on her bookshelf. The movie hints that Sting is no ordinary arachnid even before she single-leggedly ends the building’s cockroach infestation and starts moving on to the tenants.

Writer-director Kiah Roache-Turner is best known for his Wyrmwood series of zombie films, which I must admit I haven’t seen. He fills the story with all manner of interesting details, like Charlotte’s stepdad (Ryan Corr) drawing illustrations for a graphic novel when he’s not working as the building super and an arachnologist neighbor (Danny Kim) whose manners are so robotic that he seems like he might be more dangerous than the man-eating spider. I’m not enamored of the building possessing air ducts large enough for a person — or a spider grown as big as a small horse — to crawl through. (I’m also disappointed that nobody makes a joke about the former lead singer for The Police.) The problem is that these details don’t add up to any wise-ass commentary on the generic story. They only set the stage for the stepfather to finally prove his worth to the family during the climactic confrontation.

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Well, there’s a funny gag when Charlotte’s coldhearted great-aunt (Robyn Nevin) mistakes a hanging spider plant for the spider, and our heroine is more resourceful at dealing with Sting than most of us would be. Maybe that’s not enough to merit a trip to the theater, but should you spot it crawling across your living room, it makes a diverting watch.

Sting
Starring Alyla Browne and Ryan Corr. Written and directed by Kiah Roache-Turner. Rated R.

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