Directed by William Friedkin
Written by Tracy Letts, based on his stage play.
Ashley Judd as Agnes White
Michael Shannon as Peter Evans
Lynn Collins as R.C.
Brian F. O'Bryne as Dr. Sweet
Harry Connick Jr. as Jerry Goss
102 Minutes(Rated R for some strong violence, sexuality, nudity, language and drug use. )
If my memory serves well, it recalls that "Bug" was originally slated for release last December, and it was due to receive a limited release. The poster did not look like the creepy horror movie above, and it was low key. It did not splash Ashley Judd's face, and it just had someones torso with the word "Bug" written on their stomach. And then it was removed from the release list, and given a wide release a few months later where the marketing for it seemed to have changed. Now it's a horror movie-with comparisons to "The Exorcist" because of its connection with William Friedkin. But its clear about forty five minutes into "Bug" that it is not a horror movie, but a story about characters, relationships, past and future, and creepy bugs that are really just inside of the head. There are some disturbing images, but no jump scenes or classic horror movie moments. It's a surprisingly artistic film for a wide release, and its roots in theatre are apparent in every scene.
"Bug" takes place about 95 percent inside of a seedy hotel room, which is the home to Agnes White. The phone is always ringing, and instead of somebody answering there is just heavy breathing. Agnes believes it is one of her ex-boyfriends, who has just got out of prison. She lives in fear, but continues her life including her work at a populated lesbian bar, where she is friends with one of the other waitress' and fellow lesbians-R.C. R.C. introduces her to Peter Evans, a mentally disturbed and quiet young man that ends up spending the night on Agnes' couch. The next night he is still there and ends up bedding her, and her vulnerable state of mind begins to develop strong feelings for Peter. She buys into his insane theory-that the room is completely populated by bugs. Bugs that bite, even though people like R.C. claim that the wounds on his stomach are self-inflicted because he THINKS there are bugs. And then the important people enter-it seems that Peter is a Vietnam vet whose mind went insane and needs to be in a clinic. But Agnes will pay no attention and believes that everybody wants to take Peter away from her-just when she has nothing. She covers the room in a foil to block any computer signals from getting through, and she ends up giving in to the power of the "bugs."
I will admit that "Bug" was not what I expected, and I blame this on the poor marketing. The reason why no audience will find 'Bug" to be good is because it isn't what they expect. It is being marketed as one of the "scariest and disturbing horror films ever," when it is really a low-key, stage psychological thriller. This is a film about characters, and not scares, which many people will not understand (even though everybody is probably out watching the new "Pirates of the Caribbean.") The acting is all extremely well done, especially Ashley Judd whose transformation from this strong independent woman into this disturbed and insane individual may not be one hundred percent believable in relevance to the screenplay, but is acted to perfection. Michael Shannon's transformation is believable, and this is a man that drifts from quiet and soft-spoken to disturbed and outspoken and Shannon does it with such flow that you always remember that it is the same character. His constant tics and twitches remain rather consistent, and he actually acts as if there are bugs crawling everywhere even when we (the audience) is highly aware that there is not. The other three players do not do enough to be very memorable, and Harry Connick Jr. is somewhat not needed as Judd's ex. But the dialogue between the two leads is well written, their chemistry together seems natural, and all in all they work well together. Some were complaining that they could not understand why Judd's character would fall in love with such a madman, but she is very vulnerable and her life is in shambles to the point where just a little but of comfort is enough for her to go off the deep end.
I am interested in seeing this as a stage play, and even though I knew that it was based on a play there is a very good transition. This has the look and feel of a play, even to the point where I felt like the setting was an actual character of its own. The weakest scenes are when they drift away, like an early scene in the lesbian bar. I could have probably lived without her friend R.C's character, even though Lynn Collins is not bad to look at (see "Numb" hopefully one day for more examples of this.) Seeing how the environment suffers and transforms as a result of the characters transformation leads to an interesting parallel and discussion on the effect environment has on people, and the final moments only highlight this more. The cinematography during the "foiled" hotel room scenes is stunningly creepy to watch. All in all this is an interesting film more than a scary one. Fans of gore will only be resorted to one scene involving teeth they may find interesting, but anybody looking for an intelligent horror film need to look no further. "Bug" accomplishes just that, and its great to see that it finally is released.