“One of the most disturbing horror movies imaginable”… this is the quote on the poster for Lionsgate’s BUG, which also states “from the director of THE EXORCIST”. These two little jolts of information that are blaring from the official one sheets are completely misleading. BUG is not a horror film, not even close; it’s a dramatic psychological thriller about two individuals who go completely insane. So before heading off to see the great William Friedkin’s (French Connection) latest film, make sure you understand exactly what you’re about to see because it ultimately will make or break the experience for you.
In the film a paranoid, unhinged, war veteran (Michael Shannon) who sees insects everywhere holes up with a lonely woman (Ashley Judd), who is hiding from her abusive ex-husband (Harry Connick Jr.) in an Oklahoma motel room.
There are only two words you need to have in the back of your mind when you go and see BUG… “madness” and “insanity.” The movie begins as an ordinary tale of a battered-wife looking for love in the wrong places because she’s afraid of her ex-husband abusing her. She meets a new guy at a bar and instantly falls in love (so she thinks). Only this tale takes a different turn, the new guy is insane and creates such paranoia in her that she begins to believe his outlandish claims.
Out of all of the “hotel room” films I’ve seen in the past few weeks (1408, BUG, SYMPATHY, VACANCY), this one stands out in the crowd. Friedkin’s directing is superb as he somehow manages to create space in such a claustrophobic room. Some might call this a fault, but I like that it felt much larger than it really was. In addition, the set design and actual look of the film were both superior works of art that made every inch of that “white trash” environment believable.
What strikes me as odd is that Lionsgate didn’t release this back in 2006 like originally planned. Specifically because I think that there is no reason Ashley Judd (and her wonderful juggs) couldn’t have been nominated for an Academy Award, her performance is beyond superb and the best I’ve seen this year (not to take anything away from Michael Shannon who is completely freaky).
In the end BUG stops about one step short of becoming a David Cronenberg movie. It’s complete madness, insanity and disturbing to no end. I also love the reflection on our society that is so well hidden in the context of the story, so that it’s not preachy. If read between the lines, there’s a great thought-provoking idea that will hopefully get your gears turning as you walk out of the theater (after scratching your head in disbelief).
It’s a real shame that this tiny film will probably be overlooked in the midst of big movie summer madness. But if you can afford to see BUG, in addition to the 80 other movies hitting theaters, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.