Bug (2006)

Directed By: William Friedkin
Written By: Tracy Letts
Starring: Ashley Judd
  Michael Shannon
  Harry Connick Jr

What was the last really good psychological body horror you saw? The Fly, right? At the very least, it was probably directed by David Cronenberg. This movie isn’t directed by that particular legend, but by the eyes behind The Exorcist, William Friedkin. It is, however, equally as taut, intense and gripping as any list-topping horror flick you may have seen.

Based on her own play, Tracy Letts crafts a story that is both simple and effective: A lonely trailer-dwelling woman gets high with a quiet stranger, who then becomes her lover. Flash forward a bit and the room they live in is coated in tin foil while they hide away from the thousands of killer bugs they believe are coming to get them. Or something like that. I don’t want to say the story is incidental as that wouldn’t be strictly true, but it isn’t the plot that makes the biggest impact. The directional change that happens at almost exactly halfway through is all too convenient, it’s unbelievable that a person could be manipulated so easily. I found it all somewhat jarring. Even with this as an issue that might get on your wick, Bug is still an excellent movie.

The dialogue crackles with wit, and is delivered so deftly by all involved. The acting is solid from all parties. Michael Shannon seems to be channeling comedian Stephen Wright through his performance; laced with lackadaisical charm, with over-the-top bits as required, which is an interesting slant on the quiet stranger of dubious value. The bulk of the film is shot hand-held, lending an almost voyeuristic element to the movie. Through intimate close ups and minimal locations, Friedkin and DoP Michael Grady create a gritty reality which slowly gives way to the surreal as it progresses. The acting and shooting style gets increasingly frenzied as the movie wears on, capturing the descent into madness almost perfectly. Being a fairly subdued affair, when the violence kicks in you will be pulled screaming into the centre of the foil wrapped caravan. Having never seen the play, I couldn’t say how this works on a stage but the intimacy would undoubtedly be lost when watching these events from a distance.

Bug is an interesting movie, bubbling under the surface is a story about the climate of fear and the idea of being controlled by those who are meant to be keeping you safe. Would you have thought a movie about trailer trash fending off a bug infestation would have anything in common with 1984? I certainly wouldn’t have. This movie is the sort that sticks in your mind for weeks after the first viewing, constantly causing you to question what you have seen and the meaning of it all.

I believe the movie is destined to be a future classic, an internally psychological film that buzzes with fascinating ideas and interesting performances. A character study about madness, infestation and mind control which entertains and provokes in equal measure all the way up to the climax. I’d say this was easily Friedkins best cinematic work since The Exorcist, and that is really saying something.
Also if you want to see Ashley Judd in her underwear screaming “I am the super mother bug!” then this is the film for you.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

One Comment on “Bug”

  1. Louise M says:

    I have to say, I didn’t get on with this film. I thought it was well directed, and well acted, but the plot escalation felt artificially accelerated to me, and (having watched it, not knowing it was based on a play) the whole story screamed of being made for the stage. What would work brilliantly in a theatre, I feel stuttered slightly in the transition to the screen. Worth a watch, sure, but future classic? I’m not so sure.

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