Field Guide to Invertebrates in Film: Tail Sting

Tail Sting (2001)

Critter: Genetically altered members of the order Scorpiones

Size: They start off small, but soon grow to man-sized monsters

Modus Operandi: Annihilate human victims with razor-sharp stingers and crushing claws.

How the Menace Emerges: One of three scientists is overcome by greed and in mid-flight, attempts to steal the mutant scorpions he helped create, but they escape. Inexplicably, they grow much larger and meaner.

End Goal: Rampaging, mayhem

At first, I was under the impression that Tail Sting was a very slight variation on the Snakes on a Plane model: comedy, critters and general tongue-in-cheek absurdity in a tight spot. Then I checked the date. That’s right, folks, Tail Sting predated the Snakes on a Plane phenomenon by a full 5 years. Points for originality, perhaps, but I have a sneaking suspicion that someone else has tried the escaped-critters-on-a-plane trick before.

Still, this film was a bit of a surprise. Prior to Tail Sting, I was fairly confident that the formula for a successfully fun B-critter flick consisted mainly of practical effects, rather than CGI, and a sense of humor that did away with the pretension of self-seriousness. Although this film had both of these prized ingredients, they were not enough to save it from the rubbish heap. Apparently, I need more.

The critters seemed to be based the stars of The Black Scorpion rather than the real deal, and were mostly puppet work, prosthetics and shadow attacks. Kudos to the makers of Tail Sting for giving the folks some homespun creative puppets and camera tricks, rather than succumbing to the CGI cop out, but yet something was still lacking in the final execution. The same goes for its tongue-in-cheek-ness. The pilot, Jack Russell, is named after an adorable breed of small dog, the mysterious Middle Easterners that sneak on the plane & speak of their solemn mission turn out to be electricians, the Goth kid with the German accent is really an American faker, it goes on and on. It tried to be funny (and to make fun of itself), but maybe it tried too hard.

Nit-picking Science: How many times do you people need to be told that scorpions are not insects! Dr. Ryan, you should be ashamed. And whoever heard of a queen scorpion? If there’s one critter that isn’t likely to build up a cozy little commune with her comrades, it’s the scorpion. Although, there is a real Scorpion Queen in Thailand who recently wed the Centipede King, I kid you not.

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