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Certainly not for everyone...but if you appreciate completely unique and intense cinema...check it out. I am so impressed by Ashley Judd, who I always liked, but had no idea of her range and courage. The film is very disturbing...I would describe it as a dark comedy that gets darker and darker and darker...calling it horror is too limited although there are horror elements to it. It reminds me of Cronenberg or early Polanski (Repulsion). But comparisons don't really do it justice. It's exciting to see that there are directors that still have guts. I was exhilarated and disturbed by the end of this film. I recommend it highly to anyone who wants something different and powerful.
The Exorcist's William Friedkin makes a strong comeback directing Bug,
the screen version, adapted by original playwright Tracy Letts, of his
off-Broadway powerhouse about trailer trash paranoia that rocked the
Village's Barrow Street Theater two years ago. The Barrow Street Bug
didn't require any big names or high production values the stage
didn't even have a curtain for its startling effects. Twenty dollars
got you an evening of strange thinking and unpredictable behavior. The
NYTimes called it "the season's wildest ride"; The New Yorker's sketch
suggested it was the best play in town. This time there are new faces,
all fine, though they couldn't be any better than the original stage
cast. Here is Harry Connick Jr. playing Goss, a brute menace and an
unwelcome surprise for Agnes (Ashley Judd, replacing Shannon Cochran in
the original stage cast). Goss is Agnes' ex, turning up unannounced
after two years in stir.
This obviously wasn't a play that needed a lot of opening up. Claustrophobia is one of its most essential elements. Friedkin wisely keeps his film version simple and boxed-in, adding sweaty closeups that show just how intense and brilliant the acting is, and just a couple of shots of other locales.
Agnes resides in a sleazy motel room on the edge of the desert -- which is the play's set -- and works in a bar with her lesbian friend R.C. (Lynn Collins). In the film we get a glimpse of the crowded dive. We also see the motel from outside and above. Agnes, for whom life is an obvious struggle, is tormented by the loss of her little son, who disappeared years ago in a supermarket. Later R.C. brings an odd, seemingly recessive guy named Peter (Michael Shannon) whose gradually emerging story becomes the film's/play's focus. He claims to be a Gulf War veteran. A fifth character is a man who claims to be a doctor, played by Brian F. O'Byrne.
Bug is about process, and the process is Peter's taking over of Agnes' fragile mental and physical world and the destruction of his own in a compulsive, creepy, but somehow exhilarating display of sleazy folie a deux. The insects that he sees everywhere, inside and outside, parallel the contagion of his diseased mind, which sends out invisible tendrils that envelop Agnes. Letts' astonishing dialogue metes out madness in gradually increasing doses. The fun is watching this happen and looking for transitions in the seamless and maniacally clever writing. Friedkin's filming gives a kind of lunar, hallucinatory edge and the action's intensity bursts from the screen. But all in all, nothing could outdo that evening at the Barrow Street Theater. It's surprising that the whole thing works almost as well in a movie, but where it doesn't, you realize that theater has certain powers found nowhere else.
The main US reviewers who check stuff out at Cannes and assess its commercial potential (Hollywood Reporter, Variety) think Bug is a bust. The title seems to remind them of Saw, and they judge this to be at best a cheap horror movie that can draw in an audience only through sensational trailers. That is shortsighted. Bug is horrific, but it's mainly a psychological study, executed with a wildly audacious taste for theatrical surprise and an uncanny ability to calibrate progressive character revelation. Friedkin appears to have returned to his roots here in dealing with a play and handling it with a fine minimalism. It is true certainly that an unsophisticated audience may find Bug disappointing, or too talky. But its real audience is the savvy Barrows Street kind, art house folks not unfamiliar with Beckett, Pinter, or Sam Shepard.
Many viewers have been bashing this film, and for the mainstream crowd expecting an obvious crowd-pleaser focused on one genre, I can completely understand why you didn't like the film. However, the film goes much deeper than it appears to be. Many people are expecting a horror film, and are confused by the intense monologues and the dark comedy mixed in with the self-inflicted torture and self-defense from the outside world, which are clearly characteristics of a psychological thriller. The movie was not meant to have any "heroes" or "villains", but it was meant to show everyday people in an everyday world, with one woman so lonely, so desperate to have someone who can love her, who finally finds someone who can read her, that she sets aside the fact that he is a paranoid schizophrenic who believes that someone is out to get him. After many hours and days spent together, cut off from society, she gradually becomes one with him, his madness slowly sinking into her mind as she joins him in his own delusional world. The film is not your average film, and will understandably turn off or confuse many viewers. Please note, however, that the film deals with an extremely serious illness that can't be "prettied up" or be made simpler to try and understand what's going on. It just presents itself in a straight-forward, natural form, which is usually tougher to understand and accept, much like the film.
I was lucky enough to see the movie in a French theater showing a part
of the Cannes film festival selection.
If you know William Friedkin mostly for his gritty thrillers or The exorcist, Bug might be a surprise: a single location, 5 characters, no car chase, but still a lot of ambiguity and psychological exploration.
Bug actually reminds me of the first Friedkin movies, also based on plays and more interested in character study than spectacular effects. It's all the more striking that Bug looks like a young man's movie, filled with energy, experimentation, absurd humor and a genuine sense of artistic freedom. Bug tries a lot of things, doesn't always succeed but remains an intense exercise of style. Recommanded for everybody who enjoys a good surprise.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
*** CAUTION CONTAINS SPOILERS****
The commercials and previews for "Bug" are very very misleading. Most people go in expecting a sci-fi/horror flick. This movie has nothing supernatural or extraterrestrial about it. It's about drug induced paranoia and how insanely out of control it can get. "Bug" has more in common with "Requiem For A Dream" than say "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."
Essentially "Bug" was about crystal meth addiction although I can't recall the word meth ever being used. There were cocaine references but I think those were curveballs so not to point out what was really happening. Think about it. White trash can't afford cocaine but they usually can afford crank, especially if they are cooking up their own. Crank lasts much longer than coke and a user needs a lot less. That there was always some powder on the mirror is more apt to be true about speed then coke because cocaine lasts a shorter amount of time hence runs out much faster... That Friedkin didn't feel the need to show them smoking/snorting every other scene was really quite clever. Here are several major hints.
1- Meth heads are uber conspiracy theory paranoid sorts. Crystal meth destroys the brain and induces schizophrenia/paranoia. The amazing rants that they go on is very true of what full blown tweakers do. Not to mention seeing imaginary bugs and picking at themselves to the point of self-mutilation.
2- Peter's diminished sex drive and then the ability to perform as well as he does is typical of users. When Peter brings back one small muffin for each of them for breakfast that's because tweakers don't eat much. When Agnes says 'we've only been together once but I would rather just talk/listen to you than be anywhere else' is also something a speed freak would say. They're spun and they're doing the tweaker thing together.
3- Goss keeps mentioning that she's lost weight and the disheveled condition of her room is also very telling. And when Goss sees the powder he makes a comment, tastes it, but does not snort up. You really think a convict like Goss would pass up a line of coke?
4- Full blown paranoid tweakers have been known to wall paper their entire apartments/ houses with aluminum foil. That the writer used this amazing element speaks volumes.
5- Crystal meth is cooked up with bug spray and gasoline. When Doctor Sweet sits on the gasoline can, he make a comment about knowing what the gas is for. I think Friedkin was hoping that the audience would figure it out instead of scratching their heads wondering when Agnes was going to turn into a giant spider...
OK, cheesy joke, I know, but actually the movie really did get to me. I
picked up this movie at Hollywood Video, I was pretty curious on what
it was, if it was a thriller, horror movie, or drama, it's pretty much
a mix of all. But also William Friedkin had directed the film, William
isn't just the director of The Exorcist, he's an incredible director
who has many works of art under his belt. So I rented Bug and watched
it last night and I have to say that this was an incredibly disturbing
psychological thriller that really freaked me out. I mean, these
performances were absolutely amazing, most people are raving about
Ashley Judd's performance, but what about Michael Shannon? In my
opinion, he had the best performance, he was so intense and he really
draws you into the scene and the story.
Agnes is a woman who is pretty much on her own, she lives in a cruddy little motel, has an abusive boyfriend who is out of jail and won't leave her alone, and also lost a son a while back in a grocery store. She's also a drug addict. When her friend, R.C., brings her friend, Peter to Agnes's house, Peter and Agnes pretty much click from the get go, but when Peter tries to get away from Agnes, he confesses the reason why, that he was part of an army experiment and he's escaped. She asks him to stay anyways, that she's so lonely, and he does, but soon they have delusions of a bug infestation and start destroying each other over something that they swear they can see and is watching them.
The story is so beyond intense, I couldn't believe how much this film got to me. Especially when they reveal the ultimate damage that Peter does to his own character, it sent shivers down my spine. Ashley, Michael, and Harry all brought in great performances and really made this story incredibly interesting and scary to watch. The whole ending was beautifully shot by Friedkin, I was a little disappointed with how quickly it did end, but thinking about it, I'm not sure if there could have been a better ending, but you'll have to see what I mean when you watch it. I would recommend this film, I don't think many users are understanding what it's about or are just focusing on the wrong things here, but this movie I warn you is not for the faint of heart.
Bizarre, stylish thriller is one of the best big screen tales of
creeping paranoia in many years.
Depressed Oklahoma woman living in a rural motel meets a mysterious drifter who claims the army has planted deadly insects in his body as part of a shady experiment. But that's only the beginning...
While the trailer for Bug may make it seem like a David Croenberg-type parasite horror film, Bug is really much more of a dark psychological character study. Never the less this is a compelling and truly twisted little shocker. The plot starts off leisurely, but ultimately builds to some intense and hauntingly good sequences. The characters are convincingly well played, the atmosphere is brooding, and the direction is slickly done.
Ashley Judd is terrific as the lonely woman who becomes infatuated with the stranger and Michael Shannon does a strong performance as the ex-soldier who fears he is part of a sinister conspiracy. Harry Conick Jr. is also great in his supporting role as Judd's abusive ex-con husband.
While Bug may disappoint gore-hounds, those that enjoy a good mind-trip will find much to savor in this warped little film!
*** 1/2 out of ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this film today at the AFI Film Festival in Los Angeles. I had
seen some previews of it once and thought it looked interesting. I
wasn't sure what to expect -- a horror flick, a spy/government secret
thriller, science fiction. My basic contention is the movie was a study
of folie a deux, a disorder in which two (or sometimes more, but
generally just two) people with a close relationship share a psychotic
delusion. While only one person in the pairing is psychotic, the other
develops psychosis -- including delusions, paranoia, even
hallucinations -- by virtue of their closeness to the psychotic person.
Often, such couple will be isolated and avoid contact with others. I
came across this phenomena years ago while researching some other
subject, and thought about it tonight while viewing the film. Aggie's
final speech about how incidents in her life have tied together with
Peter's arrival was an over-the-top example of how she now shared his
paranoia. Generally, folie a deux develops between an extremely close
couple (such as a married couple), but Aggie's loneliness, misery and
fear (due to the recent release of her con ex-husband), along with her
drinking, smoking crack, and doing blow, accelerated their feelings of
and dependence on each other.
That said, the movie started out spookily (you're paranoid from the word go) and it held my interest for about two-thirds of the time. The acting was good all around. Unfortunately, it really lagged towards the end. I kept waiting for someone from the motel to come in (probably curious about all the noise) and have them both hauled off to an institution. Or for RC to call someone. (Surely she must have realized that her friend Aggie was now certifiably nuts.) And when I saw how far gone the situation had gotten, I predicted the ending of the movie about twenty minutes before it happened. Frankly, I had lost interest in the characters at the end, but I'd still rate it a 7 for an interesting concept, energetic directing, good performances.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm kind of left on the fence after this one. This is not a film that
one 'enjoys,' as it is a portrait of insanity and insanity's effects on
the vulnerable. Here are some pretty cool things about it:
1. The setting is entirely done in a motel room, and it is interesting to see how it changes throughout the film. 2. The main character, Agnes, changes from a vulnerable, lonely woman into a psychotic self-destructive woman who severs ties with everything but her boyfriends delusions. Once again, another interesting change to see take place. 3. It forces the audience to make decisions as to who to empathize with and why. And to be honest, the basis for reality is not established until the end.
Like I said, it's a beautiful film to watch, especially since it is shot in a small space with a lot of fixed angels, very little panning. The lighting is something pretty spectacular, as well. The acting is dead on, and the characters are believable and consistent throughout the movie. The only significant criticism that I can bring against this film is that empathy with the characters is challenged by the radical nature of their circumstances.
This movie is worth a watch, but don't expect jumpy-type horror or unnecessary gore. This one is meant to make your question, to puzzle. So if you don't like that, you won't like this one.
It's difficult to discuss William Friedkin's "Bug" because, like his
1973 classic "The Exorcist" before it, it relies on atmosphere, not
events. One can only go so far in stating the synopsis because it is a
film that demands you know the bare essentials going in.
Primarily, "Bug" concerns a woman who has seized to believe in much of anything, and what lengths she will go to believe again. It is also about the influence that one person can have on another, especially when it comes to radical beliefs. And it begs the question: can one person's reality, no matter how fantastical, become someone else's, even when this reality could be false? Agnes White (Ashley Judd, in one of her very best performances) has been living in the Rustic Motel, a rundown joint in the South West. She has been receiving mysterious phone calls from someone (she believes it is be her ex-husband Jerry, who has just been released from prison.) One night she gets a visit from her friend and sometimes-girlfriend R.C. (Lynn Collins), who has brought with her a strange man named Peter Evans (Michael Shannon). "What do you think?", asks R.C. "He may be an ex-murderer," Agnes whispers. The three drink and when R.C. goes home, Peter offers to stay. Agnes is timid at first; Peter is strangely odd and tends to talk in a monotonous voice, but he doesn't seem dangerous. He tells her he "picks up on things" and that he can tell she is lonely. She doesn't disagree, and tells him it's nice to have someone around. He speaks of his time in the Marines, about hidden machinery watching American citizens, about secret experiments, and Agnes just listens. Peter spends the night but in the morning, there is a surprise awaiting Agnes.
That is where I must stop. I went in knowing absolutely nothing about the film and it was this factor that had me enjoying "Bug" so much. Besides a few clichés towards the beginning (such as the repeated phone calls) the story is gripping because of the smart but unadorned dialogue and the acting from Judd. There is a scene later in the film when Judd and Shannon are discussing different kinds of bed bugs, and the two are so quick and funny with their dialogue that it seems improvised.
But isn't this a horror film? In a way, yes. There are horror elements, but not in the sense as recent horror movie endeavors. There is hardly an horror violence; it is, for the most part, a sense of dread, and the awareness that what is happening to these two characters may not be real.
It is based on a play by Trecy Letts, who adapted his play for the screen. The structure of the film stays true to the stage version, as it, for the most, takes place entirely in a motel room. Only occasionally are we let outside, and when we are, it is from a view above in a helicopter. The helicopters, in fact, are used as a device to signal a growing threat. Very often in scenes in the motel room we hear the sound of helicopters passing by, a reminder that the characters are being watched. But are they really there, or are we hearing them through the ears of the characters? Friedkin uses harsh, warm lighting in the motel room and a mixture of shaky camera-work with static shots, sometimes letting the actors do their character work, sometimes taking the initiative to create tension. There is no visible antagonist, like there was in "The Exorcist". We are never sure if these bugs that are eventually terrorizing the two main characters are real or merely schizophrenic delusions. Whatever the answer, however, it is soon happening to the two of them and any sense of objectivity in the film is gone.
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