Release Date: May 19th, 2006 (Cannes)
Directed by: William Friedkin
Written by: Tracy Letts
Based on: Bug by Tracy Letts
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Ashley Judd, Michael Shannon, Lynn Collins, Brian F. O’Byrne, Harry Connick Jr.
DMK Mediafonds International, Inferno Distribution LLC, L.I.F.T. Productions, Lionsgate, 101 Minutes
“I guess I’d rather talk with you about bugs than nothing with nobody.” – Agnes White
William Friedkin is most associated with directing The Exorcist. This film, however, leaves you with a similar sense of disgust and dread.
In this picture, we meet Agnes, a lonely Oklahoma woman that works in a gay bar and lives in a rundown hotel. She does drugs and fools around with a lesbian, has a psycho ex-husband that just got out of prison and is still emotionally wrecked from the loss of her child.
Agnes is introduced to Peter and immediately develops in infatuation with him. Peter and Agnes get very close and intimate, even though Peter “isn’t into women” or anyone for that matter. Soon, we learn that Peter believes in all sorts of crazy conspiracies and even thinks that he was implanted with flesh eating bugs as some sort of military experiment.
As the film rolls on, Peter gets more erratic and insane and Agnes follows suit, believing him every step of the way. She starts seeing what Peter is seeing.
The film is magnificently shot. The opening scene that pans over a dark and barren landscape, slowly moving towards a small hotel in the distance, is beautiful and haunting. The cinematography in the last twenty minutes or so, showing these two insane people in a confined space of tin foil walls glowing from bug zappers is eerie and enchanting. This film certainly looks spectacular.
Bug also benefits from the tremendous performances by both Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon, who sell their characters to the point that their slip into madness feels organic and terrifying.
Despite the solid acting, though, the characters aren’t nearly developed enough in the script and it is hard to feel anything deeper for them beyond their psychotic surface. Sure, your heart aches in a way but you don’t necessarily like these two people or find them to be that interesting. Watching anyone slip into a horrible state of mental health is always engaging to some degree but this film lacks the soul it needs to really make it as profound as it was trying to be.
Besides, everything just sort of happens and once the crazy ball gets rolling, we’re off to the races and it goes from 0 to 60 in record time.
Bug is a film that has a lot of strengths but doesn’t do much to capitalize on them other than just throwing them on the screen and hoping it works on its own. It’s hard to say whether or not the script was lacking, although it seems as though it was, or if Friedkin failed to bring it all together. I think the blame is really on both of those things, though.
Plus, you’re supposed to wonder if Peter is actually telling the truth and isn’t just nuts. I never once thought he was anything but nuts and saw this all as a shared delusion. I know that I was supposed to question it but that just didn’t work for me.
Additionally, the ending is pretty terrible and didn’t add anything to the narrative. Things just sort of end very badly and very blandly.
This is a creepy and disturbing movie that will certainly make you uncomfortable but it is just as much unsatisfying as it is mesmerizing.
Pairs well with: Other body horror films: The Brood, The Fly, etc.