Royal Jelly (2021) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Royal Jelly (2021) Review

Horrorific content by christina on October 23rd, 2021 | Movie Review | Indie Horror, Possession, Teen, Body Horror

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A high school social outcast is taken under the wing of a mysterious mentor, only to be groomed as the hive's next queen.

Writer-director Sean Riley’s Royal Jelly is the latest genre film to try to capitalize on the potential of bees as a plot device. But is it destined to create the right kind of buzz (sorry, had to), or would you be better off rewatching Invasion of the Bee Girls instead? Starring Elizabeth McCoy, Jonas Chartock and Fiona McQuinn among others.

Once upon a hive...

Royal Jelly Review

The horror genre really isn’t any stranger to bees as a potential topic. Classics like The Swarm, Deadly Bees and even Candyman have proven that horror movies go pretty well with the idea of these industrious tiny insects. And since new examples don’t come around but so often, bee horror movies refreshingly aren’t done to death… yet.

Royal Jelly is the story of goth teen Aster (Elizabeth McCoy). Like most teens who don’t quite fit in, Aster has an unusual interest that only adds to her reputation for being a bit of a weirdo. She happens to be a beekeeper. Unfortunately, she also comes from a troubled home where she lives with her dysfunctional family. Stepmother Tremaine (Fiona McQuinn) and half-sister Drew (Raylen Ladner) do nothing but bully Aster. Meanwhile, her father, Jody (Jonas Chartock), does seem to care for her but also has no spine or natural inclination to stick up for her.

Things only start to look up when new teacher Tresa (Sherry Lattanzi) signs on at Aster’s school. Tresa just so happens to share Aster’s passion for beekeeping and takes an instant shine to the girl. However, as one might guess if they’ve seen many horror movies, this seemingly fortunate turn of events isn’t everything it appears to be at first.

It won’t be long before Tresa’s intense interest in young Aster makes you raise an eyebrow, because it gets weird fast. The relationship quickly goes from talking together in class, to having meals together, to actually committing crimes together. And after Drew and her gang of bullies destroy Aster’s hives, Tresa even winds up taking Aster in after she runs away. It feels like another icky case of sexual grooming in progress, but of course, it turns out that Tresa’s interests in Aster’s body serve an entirely different purpose.

Royal Jelly is the kind of film that seems to have a lot of promise. It’s different, it’s intriguing, and it isn’t here to rehash the same old ground every other low-budget horror film attempts to tackle. However, it also has some serious issues that keep it from reaching its full potential. To begin with, there are some pacing problems. You keep waiting for the plot to shift gears and take a hard left into clear horror territory, but that doesn’t happen until the last half hour. And by then, it’s too late.

The effects here are also pretty terrible. For instance, there are eventual bee-person transformations going on, but these are anything but scary creatures. Instead, they have wings that look like part of someone’s grade school Halloween costume, and the bee people inexplicably have vampire fangs to boot. There’s also a disappointing lack of actual bee action going on here, which one would presumably expect to see in a bee-themed horror film.

The bright spots here are the performances. Elizabeth McCoy really shines as Aster, giving her a soul and ensuring that you care about her fate. Raylen Ladner is also a pleasant surprise as the antagonistic, preppy Drew and manages to do a lot with what’s really a very small role.

Worth Watching?

So is Royal Jelly unwatchable? No, not at all. But it’s not going to give The Swarm a run for its money, either. So check it out if you’re in the mood for something different. Just don’t expect to bee blown away.

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