ROYAL JELLY is directed and written by Sam Riley and stars Elizabeth McCoy, Raylen Ladner, Sherry Lattanzi, and Jake McCoy. Unfortunately, there’s no real sting to ROYAL JELLY and isn’t really worth the buzz. Oh, I’m sorry, did you think I *wouldn’t* be making bee puns for a bee-horror movie? You don’t know me at all, friend.
I actually enjoy bee horror movies and they’re an easy sell because – A) I’m allergic to bee stings, so it’s immediately terrifying, and B(ee) bees are just so mesmerizing to watch. They’re stock footage heaven, my friends. I respect bees and wholeheartedly admit they’re vastly superior to me. I’m useless; they’re saving the world. They’re also terrifying.
So, I thought that ROYAL JELLY would be a mix of Wicker Man, Bug, and maybe The Deadly Bees thrown in there. Something kind of body-horror, something of an early ’90s vibe of ‘Girlz Rule’ with a crapton of CGI bees and maybe some pyrotechnics at the climax. I probably would have been delighted by that.
But guess what I didn’t get…
Albeit it being grossly over-acted, the beginning of ROYAL JELLY was pretty good, engaging even. I was hooked. Aster (Elizabeth McCoy) is a teen apiary enthusiast trying to fit into a blended family after her mother’s death. She’s a nerd at school. She’s awkward and sweet. McCoy does an amazing job with this role especially as it progresses because hoo, boy. It gets rough.
Anyway, a sassy substitute teacher (Sherry Lattanzi) arrives on the scene wearing sunglasses and is quick to harass Aster to be her gal pal. They egg houses together and eat Chinese take-out, cementing their friendship enough that Aster is fine to run away and stay with the teacher. But don’t worry if you were getting ‘Hot for Teacher’ vibes because –no homo– the teacher is ALSO a mom to a “cool” boy Aster’s age. What are the odds…
After a lackluster makeover scene even more underwhelming than She’s All That, the cool-mom-teacher helps Aster make a new hive since her old one was destroyed while pushing for a romance between her son and teenage mentee. It’s pretty out of left field. Aster somehow thinks he’s cool, blah, blah, blah, they kiss- you know what’s missing? BEES. Yeah, bees are missing. Also death. Carnage. Horror. Tension. Mystery. Suspense. Put up the posters because all of that’s missing.
So…..MAJOR spoilers for ROYAL JELLY because I don’t care and neither should you – bee people. Yep. Mom is a bee person. Son is a bee person. They’re bee people trying to turn Aster into a queen bee person, but instead, Cool-Mom gets mad and decides…sigh (trigger warning)…to breed her and forces her to carry a bee-baby to term, which ends up being stillborn. Okay.
Let me pull up a chair because – no. Just no. I knew something was up when Aster was cleaning up her sister’s menstrual blood from the bed like Little Orphan Annie scrubbing a floor (that’s not how any of this works), but I’m pulling the plug on this half-assed attempt on this role and concept of femininity in horror. Right here and now. Because it sucks.
To pull out these heavy subject matters with women isn’t actually new to horror, even in the likes of Prom Night II: Hello Mary Lou, Black Christmas, Friday the Thirteenth, and The Blackcoat’s Daughter, The Void, Jaws 3, etc. However, to cram these heavy topics into the last twenty minutes with the emotional grace of a 2-tonne robot with absolutely no foreshadowing, and then setting it up and clumsily dropping it, is negligent and gross. It’s like someone man-splaining how a period works to a fifty-year-old female gynecologist. It’s cringey. It’s gross. You want to avoid it at a party.
And honestly, with the exception of Elizabeth McCoy’s acting, there just isn’t enough to keep ROYAL JELLY buzz-worthy. The writing isn’t bad, but the acting, delivery, and plot are lacking. I’d tell you to buzz off, but that might be none of my beeswax.
ROYAL JELLY is now available to watch on all Digital platforms via Uncork’d Entertainment.