By Shawn McKenzie 07/28/2007
Waitress Agnes White (Ashley Judd) is a sad, lonely woman living in the Rustic Motel in Oklahoma. She works at a lesbian bar with fellow waitress and best friend R.C. (Lynn Collins.) Agnes is trying to avoid her ex-husband Jerry Goss (Harry Connick Jr.), a man who has been recently paroled after doing twelve years for armed robbery. It’s a little tough for her to avoid him though, because she thinks that the prank phone calls that she has been receiving lately are from him. She is also depressed about the fact that their six-year-old son, Lloyd, disappeared out of a grocery store ten years ago, and she feels guilty about it. Already doing a little too much drinking and drugs anyway, she is charmed by Peter Evans (Michael Shannon)…an odd, quiet drifter that R.C. brings over to the motel room for some partying. Peter swears that he is not looking for sex…just some company. He is a Gulf War veteran, and he has been drifting ever since. They don’t end up having sex, but Jerry stops by the next morning and intimidates Agnes and Peter. After he leaves, Agnes and Peter wallow in their shared loneliness, and they finally have sex. In the middle of that night, Peter swears that some bed bugs are biting him, but Agnes can’t see them. He manages eventually to convince her that they exist, and he drags her down into his paranoia. R.C. and Dr. Sweet (Brian F. O’Byrne)…Peter’s therapist…can’t seem to help the couple who…despite the bug bites all over Peter’s back, whom Sweet thinks were self-inflicted…swear that they are being infected by thousands of microscopic bugs crawling underneath their skin. Agnes and Peter’s shared seclusion ultimately drives them into madness.
What is up with the deceptive advertising this year? It started with the freakin’ awful crocodile horror movie Primeval from January, and it continued on with the excellent family film Bridge to Teribithia. Now we have Bug…a movie that Lionsgate has promoted as a horror movie. The movie is disturbing and intense…but it is no horror movie.
Yes…bugs can be creepy. Yes…William Friedkin…the helmer of one of the greatest horror movies of all time, 1973’s The Exorcist…directed the movie. And oh yes…there is blood (kinda ripping off the tagline from another Lionsgate hit, 2005’s Saw II.) This movie is not a horror flick though! In fact, I only saw one actual bug in the movie. Otherwise, it’s only psychological bugs in the minds of the two lead characters. I know that Friedkin isn’t in charge of the marketing (in fact, he said himself in an interview with ComingSoon.net that the movie wasn’t a horror movie), but I’m guessing that he doesn’t have the same kind of pull that he once did (after 2003’s just-okay The Hunted, I can see why.)
Screenwriter Tracy Letts based the screenplay on his off-Broadway play of the same name. Since most of the action takes place in the motel room, I could easily see that it was a play adaptation. However, that didn’t stop me from enjoying it. Shannon was the only one from the stage show to play the same character on the silver screen. I’m glad that Friedkin was allowed to have Shannon play the character, instead of bringing in a bigger name, because he brought a lot of intensity to the role. Unfortunately, for him, he…like Batman Begins’ Cillian Murphy or Casino Royale’s Mads Mikkelsen…has a look that screams “psycho.” Whether or not he chooses to capitalize on the look is up to him, but I thought that I would point it out. He has some freaky chemistry with the “mother queen” Judd in the movie, but since I’ve never seen the play, I don’t know if it was better or worse than his chemistry with the play’s original Agnes, Shannon Cochran. The same thing goes with Connick Jr. as Jerry. His mean jerk of a character was good, but I don’t know if it was any better than the portrayal of the character by Michael Cullen, the play’s original Jerry.
Bug is no Exorcist, and it is unfair to compare them, since they are from two separate genres. If I had to describe the movie, I’d say that it was a bizarre drama that showcased the talents of two very good actors…but it is no horror movie. So if you were expecting to see a horror movie, then don’t see this one. Check out David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake of The Fly instead for your bug-themed scares.
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