Bug * * * *

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Director: William Friedkin.
Screenplay: Tracy Letts.
Starring: Ashley Judd, Michael Shannon, Harry Connick Jr, Lynn Collins, Brian F. O’Byrne.

When Bug was released in 2006, I all but ignored it, thinking it was going to be nothing more than a cheap, straight to DVD horror flick with giant cannibalistic ants and shit. It wasn’t until I took notice of actor Michael Shannon that the film resurfaced again and found it’s way onto my ‘to see list’. I took me a while to get a hold of it though and as a result it fell off my radar again until I was reminded of it recently. Now, I’m glad to say that I have seen it and it wasn’t at all what I thought it was going to be. It far exceeded my expectations.

Agnes (Ashley Judd) is lonely woman who moves into a rundown motel to escape her husband Jerry (Harry Connick, Jr) who has just been released from prison. She is introduced to eccentric drifter Peter (Michael Shannon) who seems to be hiding something and is prone to the occasional conspiracy theory. Not before long, things start to unravel as a bug infestation takes over the motel room.

Based on the play by Tracy Letts (who also writes the screenplay) and set largely within the confines of a remote motel room, it’s easy to see why this material would have played well on stage. It’s claustrophobic atmosphere is captured straight away by Friedkin and his unsteady camerawork lends a perfect sense of unease within the characters and their confined space. It begins slowly building with a gradual pace but with the arrival of an on-edge and abusive Connick, Jr and an unsettling and creepy turn from Shannon, the pace escalates to one of unbearable and visceral intensity. This is less of a gory horror and more of a psychological, character driven chamber piece that benefits from three brilliant performances. Unsurprisingly, it’s Shannon who once again stands out. He’s an actor that possesses a natural intensity and this is a role that’s fully suited to his abilities. In fact, it might even be Shannon’s finest performance and that’s saying something. However, it could also be seen as to why Shannon has now, seemingly, been type-cast as a loon-ball. Particularly impressive is Friedkin’s handling of the material though and how it grips with a plot that’s entirely unexpected while exploring the heavy issues of psychological trauma, emotional dependency and delusional paranoid schizophrenia. It’s only towards the end that the film starts to show it’s faults. It does contain a lot of ambiguity but it’s rushed and plot holes do become apparent at this time. So much so that a couple of characters appear and disappear without explanation.

This will not appeal to everyone and those expecting an out-and-out horror will probably be disappointed but if you enjoy your horrors in a more cerebral, psychological fashion, then this certainly delivers.

Mark Walker

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32 Responses to “Bug * * * *”

  1. I remember when this came out and, being a Friedkin fan and (honestly, ashemedly? no) having heard Judd was, eh, um, er, losing some clothes in this I rented it the weekend it came out. This was nothing that I expected – and I liked it – but I remember saying to my wife, this Michael Shannon guy is a stud. Nice work here, Mark!

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    • Haha! Thanks my friend. Yeah, Judd does indeed get her kit off. As does Shannon for that matter (incase the ladies are wondering). Great little film though. I really liked this.

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  2. I see we’re both championing Friedkin movies today. Well done, Mark!

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    • Yeah, Michael. I noticed Sam had posted on Duke & The Movies. I must swing by and add a comment. I think Friedkin has made some mince in his his time but when he gets it right, he brilliant. Thanks man.

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  3. I, like you said, dismissed this as pretty standard horror fare. Guess i should have thought a little better from Friedkin. Sounds interesting. Nice write up!

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    • I’m not a massive fan of Horror Chris. I think there’s too much nonsense out there and I unfairly judged this as being one of them. It’s certainly not. Terrifying but in a psychological/paranoid way.

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  4. Outstanding! Again, another movie I haven’t scene to add to my list. Solid review!

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    • Thanks Keith. This was part of a little Michael Shannon trilogy I watched over the course of a week. When I delve into an actor or director I like to do a few in succession. As expected he’s great but the film itself was the biggest surprise. It has faults but still gripping nonetheless. Check it out man.

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  5. Haven’t seen this one, but your review has convinced me to give it a look.

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  6. Your Michael Shannon marathon continues πŸ˜€ Y’know I saw the trailer for this ages ago and it creeped me out so much. I don’t think this is for me though I’m very surprised to hear Shannon is in this, too. Man he’s really been around for a while hasn’t he?

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    • This completes my little Shannon trilogy Ruth πŸ˜‰
      It’s been interesting watching him in all three film’s but as this was the earliest of them all, it’s lead me to believe that he’s been a little type cast after this. Nonetheless, he does it very well and he’s superb here. I know you can be a little sensitive on your viewing material and for that reason, i’d probably avoid this if I were you. It’s not overly violent or anything but psychologically it’s quite disturbing.

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      • I might rent it if I think I could stomach it. It did pique my interest a bit and it’s good to hear that it’s not overly violent.

        Btw Mark, if you like Bond movies, stop over and let us know your picks of best and worst Bond girls πŸ˜€

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      • If you can stand psychological terror then this is one for the watching Ruth. For the most part nothing happens, except the escalation of human paranoia. That’s what makes it so effective.

        I’ll swing by in the Bond deal but if truth be told I don’t pay as much attention to Bond movies as some do. I doubt my opinion will matter much.

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  7. People always give me weird looks when I tell them how much I love this movie. I saw it with a friend when it came out in theaters and we were the only two in the theater! You’re absolutely right about it not being for everyone but if you go into it with an open mind it’s quite a trip. Great review!

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    • Thanks Ryan. I totally agree. If more people approached this differently then they wouldn’t be disappointed. I fell into that trap but glad I decided to give it a go anyway. What a trip indeed my man.

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  8. Great review! I had heard of this one a few years ago but then I didn’t know yet who Shannon was and I also thought it was a standard horror movie. Thanks for describing its themes and set-up. I am now very interested in this one.

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  9. This sounds really great. I’ll definitely be checking it out!

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    • I hope you do Misty. It deserves a bit more attention. It’s had it’s naysayers from what I can gather but I also think a lot of people wern’t expecting the kind of film it turns out to be.

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  10. Have you seen Killer Joe yet? William Friedkin and Tracy Letts both collaborated on that as well. I think you’re gonna love that even more.

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  11. Paragraph Film Reviews Says:

    Picked this up after watching The French Connection (also after noticing Shannon on the box). Not seen it, but after seeing Killer Joe, and enjoying it, this has rocketed up the list. Sweet review πŸ˜€

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    • Thanks man. I avoided this for years to honest but thought I’d give it a go for Shannon’s sake. I’m glad I did, it was a great little film. It’s certainly not your average horror.

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  12. Terrific review! I still haven’t seen it but I have it on dVD so it’s just waiting for me, but your review will definetly speed up the process of me watching it!

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  13. I’ve been wanting to tackle this one recently too. Sounds right up my alley…Now to just find the time for it…

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    • It’s a good film Andy. I love these type of stage play adaptations where the majority of the story is set in the claustrophobia of one room. The performances are outstanding as well.

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  14. Wow, I totally overlooked this film. Sounds like something I would dig, and hell, I would watch anything with Michael Shannon anyway. Great review, Mark. Looking forward to catching this.

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    • Thanks Eric. Yeah, I done the same man. I overlooked this for years but it was Shannon that attracted me to it. I’ll admit it might not be to everyone’s taste but if you enjoy claustrophobic/psychological dramas then this should do nicely man.

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