‘Bug’ *** Movie Review 060507


The Work = ***
William Friedkin’s ‘Bug’ is being hailed by some critics as the return of a dormant filmmaker. Friedkin’s first feature in two years is a noted departure from his previous film ‘The Hunted’. While that film may not have been the box office winner a big budgeted studio flic’ is supposed to be it was still a good film and went either ignored or bashed by critics. Now, Friedkin is back in their favor with ‘Bug’, a smaller budgeted, smaller scaled horror film, that goes right for the gut (no pun intended). When ‘Bug’ is on, it is as intense as anything to grace the screens, when it is off it is held afloat by lead actors Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon.

The story revolves around an alcoholic barmaid named Agnes (Judd) who lives out of a dusty, abandoned looking, motel. She survives on vodka, pot, coke, and canned beans and looks to have never had a happy day in her life. Oh yeah, there is one more thing: she gets phone calls. She knows who it is too, her abusive convict, ex: Jerry (Harry Connick Jr.) He calls over and over again, saying nothing, only to be hung up on by an enraged Agnes. Well at least that is what she thinks. Is the phone really ringing? Is anybody really calling? When Jerry does arrive he says he only called once.

The possibility of madness is a bond that Agnes shares with her new found friend, Peter (Shannon). Peter is a quiet, odd, young man that Agnes’s friend R.C. (Lynn Collins) brings by for a night of booze and drugs. Pete doesn’t drink, doesn’t do drugs and doesn’t say much. When he does speak it is the conversation equivalent of singing off key. Still, he seems harmless enough and Agnes has him stay over simply because it is nice having someone there. The more time the pair spend together the more Peter’s personality emerges. Peter is obsessive and begins finding many, many, bugs in Agnes’s apartment. She becomes entwined in the obsession and the film goes off and running with the two. What transpires I will leave you to see for yourself but I will say that there are moments not for the faint of heart.

Still, ‘Bug’ felt somehow uneven to me and I was surprised how long it took me to get wrapped up in the story. When I was locked in there were several sequences that were far more gripping than anything I have seen recently in the current wave of horror films. I suppose I am just not in the target audience for things like ‘Hostel’ and ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ remake (which both have sequels and will probably have prequels before the trend is done). Actually I should also throw the ‘Saw’ sequels in that pile of horror flics’ that didn’t do it for me. So what is the difference? Why review and recommend ‘Bug’ above those other films?

I have trouble articulating what it is that will a dip a film into enjoyable (even when it contains truly disgusting scenes) from just unpleasant. I believe maybe it is that ‘Bug’ (and the first ‘Saw’ film for that matter) had a story and characters that I ultimately became wrapped up in. While it can be said ‘Hostel’ and ‘Eyes’ had story and character as well I would say that often they came only when not getting in the way of showing people being tortured. I don’t know, I suppose it is just a matter of what I find enjoyable and I am well aware that there are plenty who enjoy ‘Eyes’, etc.

What ever the reasons, the performances, direction, and story in ‘Bug’ carried me through the rough patches. There was even a bit of commentary on spousal abuse in the film that made it in without grinding the film to a halt. I will say that writing these reviews as a hobby does not always give me the opportunity to see a film multiple times before I review it. In the case of ‘Bug’ I could only see the film once and do wonder how it will hold up on multiple viewings. At any rate, if you are in the mood to see a small scale film that is more disturbing than it is scary and is somewhat uneven than I say give ‘Bug’ a try.


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