This will teach me to go to movies in the suburbs. The crowd I saw Bug with giggled through this uncomfortable and claustrophobic movie, obviously just not getting what was going on. I guess this nescient audience was looking for a film about creepy crawling things invading. Instead they got a paranoid portrait of a couple infecting each other with their own insanity.
Bug features Ashley Judd giving a powerhouse performance that ranges from the subtle and sublime to the outrageously moving. She seems to have broken free of her damsel-in-distress-gets-revenge role she played in a million movies and got back to playing real character parts again. Not being a leading lady does wonders for an actress becoming a real thespian.
There is a scene near the beginning of Bug where she discusses loosing her child which is one of the most moving and least manipulative scenes of the year. Itís riveting.
She is supported by the naturally creepy Michael Shannon who is immediately loveable and terrifying. Like Judd, we know heís got some twisted shit going on in his mind, but we want to try to protect him and like her itís our downfall.
Bug tells the story of how these two damaged souls find each other and spiral down together into madness. They believe themselves to be infested with bugs and this delusion brings them nothing but suffering. Itís both tragic and terrifying to see them descend. Itís so uncomfortable that I can understand why a mainstream audience would be too troubled to let the concepts of this film sink in and would rather giggle. Itís easier than trying to wrap your head around this horror.
Bug is based on a stage play and William Friedkin doesnít alter much from the obvious three act arc or sole location setting. Sometimes the movie feels a little too talky, much like a play where exposition is often accomplished through dialogue. This is only somewhat successful but generally saved by the performances of Judd and Shannon.
Bug is horrifying in the ideas it is putting out there. Instead of scaring us with creepy images like most horror films, Bug scares us with thoughts. It implants them in our heads and refuses to confirm or deny them. Watching people self-destruct like this is much more disturbing than watching a superpowered axe murderer run around killing teens.
However, they shouldnít show these kinds of films in the multiplexes. The audience just isnít prepared to deal with what Bug has to offer. If you are up for this mindfuck, itís quite the trip.