Wednesday, October 15, 2008

#94: Bug


Directed by William Friedkin
Written by Tracy Letts
Released May 25, 2007

Among directing many great films (The French Connection, To Live and Die in L.A.) and a few bad ones (Jade?!), William Friedkin directed the absolutely chilling Horror masterpiece The Exorcist. Among supernatural thrillers, there's virtually nothing that can hold a candle to that movie; it's so effective that even if you turned off the screen and listened only listened to the sound, you'd have trouble sleeping. Throw in the taboo assaulting visuals and you've got a film experience that might literally change you.

Many years have passed, but Friedkin can still work his way around your brain.

Ashley Judd is in full unglamorous mode here as Agnes White, a waitress with a troubled past who spends her free time hiding out in a remote roadside motel. She's not doing such a great job of hiding, however, because her abusive ex (played with convincing menace by Harry Connick, Jr.) returns after two years in jail and almost immediately begins threatening and assaulting her.

White befriends a strange, reclusive man named Peter (Michael Shannon) and as their relationship progresses, he reveals details about his supposed past as a Gulf War veteran who fled the military after a series of medical experiments. What starts as a seemingly small incident -- Peter finds a tiny bug in their bed late one night -- turns into a downward spiral of paranoia between the couple. Is Peter delusional, or is his blood really full of these bugs? Perhaps the drugs that are ever-present on the dresser in the hotel room might have something to do with all of this?

Friedkin works here from a script by playwright Tracy Letts, and the director uses the spacial limitations of a play to his advantage by closing in on the couple and making us a claustrophobic prisoner in the cell they create.

The odd effect of this movie for me was that it really made me want to see the play. I felt like witnessing something like this in person would be far more intense (of course, I guess that's typically the effect of a good play). The cinematic experience falls apart somewhat in the last ten minutes, where the questions you may have had get answered so quickly that the time between the lifting of the veil and the climax might be a little disappointing.

Still, the work here is admirable, with some exceptional acting from the tiny cast, great use of proximity and camera angles, and adept editing by Darrin Navarro. Much like The Exorcist, it is based on a sort of possession or absorption, of the frightening and transformative evil that might be lying under our own skin. Even if the last few minutes, where your questions are finally and almost disappointingly answered, take away from the final product, the journey there is twisted and unlike most psychological horror movies.

For more on Bug:
- Movie information at IMDB and Wikipedia.
- The official movie site.
- Buy the DVD.

The Bug trailer:

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