Royal Jelly (2021)

Sean Riley is the the principal of Benndale Elementary School in George County, Mississippi by day, but by night, he wrote and directed this movie all about a school outcast who becomes a human bee groomed to be the next queen of the hive. This is his second full-length movie after 2017’s Fighting Belle, in which a Southern belle left at the altar becomes a boxer.

This is a movie rich in bees and the honey they help produce, as nearly all the main character’s names are the names of wildflowers which bees pollinate and the term royal jelly refers to the secretion produced by glands of the hypopharynx in nurse honey bees. This is fed to all the lavrae as they grow, but mostly saved for the future queen bee as she rests in her cell within the hive.

The film’s heroine is Aster, who is that most rare of combinations — so rare I’ve never heard it it before — known as the goth beekeeper. That means that nobody likes her at school at all and she’s treated worse at home thanks to her new stepmother and stepsister, who have taken her father’s attention away from her.

Luckily — or perhaps not for the victims in this film — a new teacher comes to the school that loves bees just as much as her. And she takes in our protagonist after her stepsister and friends crush all of her hives.

This is a horror movie, so this isn’t about an older teacher grooming a sensitive young girl to the Sapphic delights of the world. That would be an Italian movie from 1978 or somesuch. This is a direct-to-streaming video in which someone grows fairy wings and fangs as they become a human bee and get their stinging revenge.

So yeah. It’s Carrie with bees and no revenge for the heroine. And it’s not the best bee movie even. That would maybe be Invasion of the Bee Girls. It’s also not anywhere as good as Phenomena, but very few movies are. There is a good idea here, but there’s not the budget or the follow-through to make it anything better than what it is. Some bees make delicious honey, others just sting you, but the pain eventualluy goes away.

Royal Jelly is available on demand from Uncork’d Entertainment. Visit the film’s official Facebook page to learn more.

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