Director – Paul Wynne, Screenplay – Timothy Griffin & Peter Soby, Jr., Producers – Vicky Pike, Morris Ruskin & Paul Wynne, Photography – Angel Colmenares, Music – Ray Colcord, Special Effects Supervisor – Laszlo Bene & Kevin McCarthy, Director of Creature Effects – Bruce Mitchell, Production Design – Joshua Crowe. Production Company – Shoreline Entertainment/Stinger Ltd.
Christian Scott [Robert Merrill] (Captain Jack Russell), Laura Putney (Dr Jennifer Ryan), Rick Kelly (Scott), Gulshan Grover (Yaffi), Guy Bracca (Sudan), Tara Price (Courtney), Conroe Brooks (Omar), Dave McCracken (Mr McCullen), Joe Bonny (Security Fred), George Hoth (Dr Philip Stewart), Jean Carol (Flight Attendant Patti), Todd Sherry (Flight Attendant Ben), Ray Davis (Carter Burnham), Thomas Dunn (Gunther/Joel), Kate Jensen (Coach Jan), Elizabeth Perry (Jodie), Jamie Douglass (Brad), Shirley Brenner (Shannon), Patrick O’Sullivan (Co-Pilot Jack), Nicole Miner (Snotty Rich Woman), Seth Marstrand (Highball), Timothy Griffin (Brick), Jack Eberle (Navigator George)
After the regular flight is cancelled, a group of passengers are placed aboard a charter flight from Melbourne, Australia to Los Angeles. Aboard are a group of scientists who are carting samples of genetically engineered scorpion hybrids in order to find funding to further their research. One of the scientists, the double-dealing Scott, sneaks down into the hold to steal the sample jars but is found by the team’s security man and forced to kill him. Turbulence knocks the jars from Scott’s hiding place and smashes them open. Suddenly the passengers and flight crew find themselves being attacked by scorpions grown to giant size. Their attempts to fight them off are hampered by the scorpions having killed most of the flight crew and eaten through vital wiring. Meanwhile, the ruthless Scott has a gun and is determined to protect the creatures so that he can sell them to a rival corporation.
My initial thoughts upon watching Tail Sting was that had been produced as a cheap copy of Snakes on a Plane (2006). Snakes on a Plane was slung together by scriptwriters trying to come up with the most absurd title they could think of and enjoyed a minor cult when it opened. Several other films also sought to copy this with the likes of Snakes on a Train (2006), Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak on a Plane (2007) and Quarantine 2: Terminal (2011) with zombies on a plane, Swarm (2007) about ants on a plane, Silent Venom (2009) about snakes on a submarine, Howl (2015) with a werewolf on a train, Lost in the Pacific (2016) with mutant cats on a plane and Train to Busan (2016) with zombies on a train. However, a glance at Tail Sting‘s copyright date shows that it came out four years before Snakes on a Plane did.
It is an ill omen when you are watching a film and there is not a single name on the cast list or opening credits that you have ever seen before. Director Paul Wynne, it appears, has made a handful of other films, mostly in the thriller and gangland genre, as well as several other ventures into low-budget sf/horror with the likes of Bombshell (1996), Chupacabra (2003) and Alien 51 (2004), most of which have incredibly bad write-ups, particularly Alien 51, which featured Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss as an alien visitor. It may say something about Tail Sting when even the leading man Christian Scott/Robert Merrill is hiding behind a pseudonym – not that his other name is any more well known either.
Everything in Tail Sting is played to easily predictable cliches. All the characters are familiar – the handsome playboy pilot recovering from a traumatic loss in the past; the woman scientist who has to assert herself against male prejudice; the treacherous yuppie, who is combined with another cliche of the obsessed scientist who recklessly endangers everybody’s life for the preservation of a new species. To their credit, through the roles are completely stock, some of the performances are not too bad – Christian Scott/Robert Merrill projects reasonably heroic charisma as the pilot, while Laura Putney maintains a suitable degree of intelligence as the woman scientist. On the other hand, Rick Kelly takes the opportunity to go completely over-the-top as the ruthless yuppie scientist during the latter half.
Tail Sting looks incredibly cheap and small in scale. The depiction of what is supposed to be Melbourne’s international airport rather laughably looks like little more than a suburban bus station. There are no CGI effects used in the creation of the scorpions, only shabby full-size mechanicals. And unfortunately, Tail Sting collapses into absurdity the moment its creatures first appear. In a scene remarkably similar to the first appearance of the snakes in Snakes on a Plane, the first couple to be killed are two teenagers who sneak into a bathroom to join the mile-high club. Unfortunately the thoroughly ridiculous image of a giant claw slowly unfolding from the ceiling duct is one that produces instant laughter.
What subsequently ensues is one of the most ridiculous and laughable menaces ever in a monster movie – I mean, it is difficult to believe this was not evident when the production team came up with the idea of making a film about giant mutant scorpions on a plane, let alone when they tried to pitch it for financing. It is hard not to laugh every time a big cheesy talon appears or one of the monsters is seen scuttling between the seats.
The absurdity keeps growing with each scene – like where hero and heroine Christian Scott and Laura Putney have a big moment where they suddenly realise attraction for one another while hiding from the scorpions by lying face to face on top of each other inside a coffin. Or the constant absurd plot twists that are being piled on – like where scientist George Hoth announces that they decided to crossbreed the scorpions with DNA from dinosaur scorpions (although the film fails to establish any particular reason why anybody would want to do this); the scene where controller Ray Davis suddenly announces: “We’ll hack the CIA navigation satellite”; or the sight of Christian Scott having to land the plane blindfolded after his eyes have been stung by scorpion venom.
After a film like Tail Sting, it is hard to think why anybody would want to create a deliberate parody of the genre such as Snakes on a Plane – what is intended perfectly straight-faced here comes out as far funnier than anything people planting their tongues in cheeks might have ever devised.
(Winner in this site’s Worst Films of 2002 list).