Theatrical Review: Bug

Agnes White is a woman who lives a solitary existence, having her home in a cheap motel, she works as a waitress in a lesbian bar. She’s got her troubles and she’s being plagued by a series of phone calls with no one else on the other end, but she believes it’s her ex-husband Goss, who’s due to be released from prison. One night, Aggie’s friend R.C. comes to her home for a little bit of partying and brings along this strange, but nice, young man that she’s met named Peter Evans, specifically to meet Aggie. Peter’s an odd guy, not looking for anything sexual from Aggie, but seeing something kindred in her to be his friend. Their friendship does become sexual though, and then that’s when the real weirdness begins. Peter confides in Aggie that he’s AWOL from an army experiment that he’s been participating in. He starts to see minute bugs everywhere that he says is some sort of aphid that’s infesting him, and Aggie almost immediately believes him, getting drawn into Peter’s psychosis… and this movie, that’s pretty much been on edge from the start just gets thrust into crazy overdrive after that…

Bug is the latest film from one of the great directors out there, William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection). It’s an adaptation from a stage play by author Tracy Letts and it’s truly one of the most original films that I’ll probably see all year and for me anyway, one hell of an entertaining experience, but a strange one at that. The thing this movie suffers from though is that it’s from Lionsgate, and I like Lionsgate, but they’ve marketed this film as a horror film for the late teens and twentysomethings out there. Now I knew in advance what I was getting into with this, but I could see someone wanting to see this thinking that they’re getting some sort of Saw-like horror film coming away in the end just thinking they’ve been robbed, and sure enough, there were a few people in our audience that felt that way (but there are horrific things in the film). We probably had 10-15 people in the theatre seeing this when we did, and I sort’ve figured it’d be that way, because of the little Pirate film that was also opening this weekend (I actually thought that we’d be the only people in to see this- but I was surprised when more showed up).

The thing is, Friedkin got my attention all the way through this film, and I truly had no idea what was going to happen from one scene to the next, as this movie went from just being a little creepy to being balls-out over-the-top crazy by it’s very end. What this ends up being is what you might describe as a love story between two very disturbed people, or it might be described as a psycho-drama character study, or even down to being this really extreme black comedy… I don’t know, it almost defies being pigeonholed in one category. About 95% of the film takes place in Aggie’s motel home, and considering that it’s limited to such a confined space, Friedkin keeps it interesting and watchable at all times.

He’s certainly well aided by a terrific cast. Ashley Judd is Aggie, and man, she’s really sunk her teeth into this one, giving what I think is a pretty brave performance that at times can go right into pure parody, but she’s committed all the way through. Michael Shannon, an actor that I’m not at all familiar with, makes one hell of an impression as Peter Evans, in which you’re sort’ve rooting for him to be all right by the films end, but once he’s reached a point where that just can’t happen, then it’s just time to sit back and watch him and try and figure out what he’ll do next. Harry Connick Jr. plays Goss, and he’s just rock-solid, sort’ve reminding me a bit as a white-trash-like Jeff Goldblum here, who’s beefed himself up a bit for the part, making himself pretty imposing to anyone else in the film.

But will you like this? That is the question, isn’t it… well, like I said above, I was thoroughly entertained by this going from being in suspense to what will happen from one moment to the next, to laughing at some of the craziness that the character’s utter on screen (Ashley Judd has a line that will probably be a quotable from this one in the future), to just being horrified at what these characters will do to protect themselves from their perceived threats. I know my tastes in film these days tend to run to being way more entertained by the way off-beat stuff than from the conventional Hollywood fare (in most cases- I still have a good time with Hollywood films too) and for me anyway, so far, Bug has been the most entertaining film that I’ve seen for the summer, but just keep in mind, this ain’t a conventional horror film by any means, and it’s not a “safe” film either, you just don’t know what will happen from one moment to the next… if you like some adventurous stuff, I’d certainly recommend Bug in a heartbeat, at least just to experience it… but after that, well you pays your money, you takes your chances…

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

29. May 2007 by Darren Goodhart
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