I really don't like musicals. I generally dislike rom-coms. And don't even try to show me a movie based on a play.
But there are exceptions to every rule. A few months ago I fell into a swoon with the Dreamgirls crooners on DVD; I am looking forward to seeing Ben Stiller and Michelle Monaghan play kissy-face in The Heartbreak Kid; and just last week I caught the play-to-screen remake of Sleuth and was totally transfixed.
Bug has elements of all the above: crickets sing, a couple falls in love, there are some genuine laughs, and the flick is quite obviously from a play (i.e., showcase acting, limited sets, and it's very character-driven).
So, you may wonder… how does Bug fit into the category of horror? Well, firstly its director is William "The Exorcist" Friedkin, it's from our scare-friendly friends at Lionsgate, and, foremost, Bug is a brutal, unblinking and quite disturbing story that is more memorable than most of the bona fide genre releases this year.
30-something Okie Agnes White (Ashley Judd) is the divorced mom of a missing child who lives in a dilapidated motel room in the middle of nowhere. She has a dead-end job at a tavern, her ex (Harry Connick Jr.) is an angry convict just out of prison, and her only friend is a lonesome lesbian (Lynn Collins) who brings a stranger (Michael Shannon) into the equation… and so the terror begins.
Shannon, reprising his role from the stage, plays Peter Evans, the well-meaning but extremely dangerous paranoid schizophrenic drifter who manages to delude Agnes into believing that evil aphids are infiltrating every fiber of their beings. Or is it Agnes who sparked the obsession? Or are there really bugs everywhere? Thanks to Friedkin's devilish direction (and misdirection), and Tracy Letts's unrelenting, sharp, sad and darkly comic writing, Bug will keep you guessing till the bloody end.
Among the additional release material on the DVD is An Introduction to Bug — the title reads like one of those 1-minute director intros, but it is actually a full-fledged making-of featurette with interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. The presentation is quite standard: actors and director on the set, their talking heads intercut with B-roll, and so on… yet what they have to say is so interesting, I was entertained throughout.
= = =Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson