Contributor; Chicago, Illinois
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Don't let anybody tell you different. If you only go see one film this weekend then skip Pirates 3 (which I liked a bunch) and treat yourself to the best horror film in a long long time. Complex, creepy as anything in recent memory this movie will not only get under your skin but into your head. Prepare yourself for the feelings only great horror films inspire; fear, repulsion and even empathy. At last a horror film with characters you care about.


Part horror film, part deft character study and part exercise in empathy, Bug is one of my favorite films this year. It affected me deeply and sidestepped a lot of flaws that should have thrown its delicate balance of horror, suspense and drama into cinematic freefall. Instead great performances, a script confident of what it has to say and some of the most disturbing imagery and strong direction to hit the American horror scene in years make this not only an awards contender but more importantly a reminder that horror is not a word synonymous with other words like remake and forgettable.

To be sure William Friedkin has had his share of flops in between masterpieces like The French Connection, The Exorcist and To Live And Die In L.A. but this finds him in that rare form that has made fans continue to anticipate something special when they hear he's involved with a project. Here he's adapting a play by Chicago playwright and well known actor Tracy Letts. This is Letts first produced screenplay and he's done a masterful job of providing Friedkin the raw material to build a dynamic film.

Agnes, a coked out inhabitant of a cheap highway motel finds herself haunted by a tragic past that includes an abusive ex-husband unexpectedly released from prison. When a friend brings a drifter by her apartment to the normally reclusive Agnes finds herself drawn to him despite his quirky demeanor. Named Peter, the man awakens one night claiming to have been bitten by a nearly invisible bug. As the threat of violence around them grows the bug problem increases in intensity if not visibility.

Let me say this. I read a capsule review of Bug in the Chicago Red Eye today that made me downright angry. It was short and to the point claiming that Ashley Judd's portrayal of the Agnes didn't do anything except render the character more annoying with each minute and thus rendered the film irritating rather than entertaining. My response? To who ever wrote that, “Get a freaking life!” I've known dozens of Agnes' over the years, people sinking into themselves via drug use, building their guilt and bitterness into a shelter for shattered psyches, often damaged most deeply by the very folks charged with nurturing and caring for them. Judd's brave risky performance is dead on, absolutely dead on and if you don't get it check your ability to empathize via cinema vs. your childish need to be entertained (read that distracted) in a world where empathy is desperately needed. Cynics need not apply and neither should those whose deepest thought as they enter the Cineplex is whether they will get to see their chosen patch of skin or requisite amount of gore. Agnes (and for that matter Peter) is often naked throughout the film but only the most callous of viewers will find it very enticing and the violence here does what violence should do in this kind of story being well placed and truly visceral, unpleasant. Yes this is a horror movie, but it's more, much more, than what the term horror movie has come to mean to the wider movie going audience.

The performances here are very strong and help along with Friedkins dynamic direction to establish a decidedly untheatrical tone. The stage roots here barely show at all but what does shine through are the plays implicit themes of social and relational frailty, how easily those things fall into disrepair and how easily our fears about those things are manipulated. Bug isn't afraid to leave its symbols and metaphors hanging in the air and those symbols and metaphors are that much stronger because of it. A ringing phone with no voice on the other end, the sound of a helicopter, an unseen bug; they all have layers of meaning just as the characters in the film have layers of complexity.

I really believe the ending of this film, which I find pitch perfect, will seperate those willing to dialogue within themselves about the important issues it raises. The rest will carp about not being distracted enough.

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More about Bug

ChrisMay 26, 2007 6:24 AM

Sounds like a lot of the reasons I liked Severance for, though certainly a very very different tone.

I guess there are two horror films worth seeing this weekend :) Nice review.

dave the web-monkeyMay 28, 2007 3:45 AM

This was the anti-thesis of my experience with the film. Never in my life have I seen an audience of film goers -all strangers to each other- all stand outside the theatre after the credits, talking and laughing about how horrible and pointless they thought the movie was.

Everyone wanted to know everyone else's story on how on earth they ended up coming to the theatre because no one would've gone to see it had they known in advance.

As for me, while the acting was shockingly good -- especially the 'Peter' fellow, who very well have made this a breakthrough role for himself, I thought the movie was insipidly rancid. While they portray "crazy" more accurately than anything I've seen in a while, I recall saying to myself "I haven't seen something so dumb in the theatre since Battlefield Earth.". Sorry, maybe I'm one of those uncool people who dont, y'know, "get it."

Kurt HalfyardMay 28, 2007 12:36 PM

Oh and Sweet Review Canfield, To be honest, I wouldn't even know where to start writing about the film without diving neck deep into spoilers....your take is very delicate.

internetrobOctober 2, 2007 11:26 AM

I thought this movie was going to be your typical hollywood flick. billions of bugs coming out of the drain, and under the door untill they consume everyone. I was pleasantly suprised. This movie was actually a great story. by the end, they were just like a real cracked out couple. If you didnt "get" this movie, it is because you dont really want to use your brain, you would rather just be entertained by senseless gore. The tension in this movie just grew from the beginning to the end. At the end I wasnt even sure if they were delusional or if their crazy reality was actually real. But no it isnt. they are the product of drugs, mental illness, and trauma. The ending left me unsatisfied at first, but after some though I think it was perfect. My opinion is that this movie was awesome. I loved it. Way better than I ever imagined it was going to be. I would recommend it to anyone who likes a good story.
by the way was the movie Perfume awesome or what?