'Bug - Special Edition'
(Ashley Judd, Harry Connick Jr., Michael Shannon, et al / DVD / R / 2007 / LGF)
Overview: Having escaped her abusive ex-husband Goss (Harry Connick Jr.), recently released from state prison, Agnes (Ashley Judd), a lonely waitress with a tragic past moves into a sleazy, run-down motel and her lesbian co-worker R.C (Lynn Collins) introduces her to Gulf War veteran Peter (Michael Shannon), a peculiar, paranoiac drifter and they begin a tentative romance. However, things don't always seem as they appear and Agnes is about to experience a claustrophobic nightmare reality as the bugs begin to arrive!
DVD Verdict: Having caught "Bug" during its short theatrical run, I found it one of the strangest curiosities to have come from Hollywood in quite some time. While you may loathe its lunacy or love its originality, there is no question the film was poorly handled by the studios. Marketed as a horror film ("by the director of `The Exorcist'"), the advertising campaign completely misrepresented the film. In fact, it continues to do so - just look at the DVD artwork.
At best, you could call "Bug" a psychological horror movie - but it's really a studied descent into madness. The film was widely distributed to a mass audience instead of being cultivated on the arthouse circuit, which is another unusual choice for a film of this type. So when average filmgoers went to "Bug" expecting a scary date movie, they got something decidedly more unpleasant (but arguably more interesting).
So let's be honest - you will either love and respect "Bug" or you will absolutely hate it. The film really doesn't have a middle ground. But, to me, that's part of its appeal. I like films to take chances - and, for all its faults, "Bug" is genuinely unsettling. I found myself profoundly disturbed and thinking about this film for days after I'd seen it. It elicited, from me, some of the same reactions and emotions that I had upon the initial viewing of David Cronenberg's masterpiece "Dead Ringers." While I won't contend that "Bug" is in the same league as that film, just the comparison is a huge honor in my book.
The story of "Bug" revolves around Ashley Judd as a small town waitress living in a desolate motel. Remote, lonely, and contending with an abusive relationship past - Judd is an interesting blend of fragility and bravado. When a stranger, played by Michael Shannon, enters the picture, the two form an oddly codependent existence. At first, this unorthodox couple seems to gain strength from one another - but as Shannon's true psychosis is revealed, things head south. The motel room becomes a cocoon against the outside world and reality starts to unravel. We become more and more disconnected from what is real and what is delusional. And as the film progresses, the madness accelerates in an almost operatic way.
The film makes bold choices and not everything works - but with conventional fare always taking the "safe" route, I'm not going to fault "Bug" for its outrageousness. Shannon is terrific and Judd commands the screen. They delve so deeply into these twisted personalities, it's hard not to be awed by their commitment. I credit Judd - she's a great actress - I like to see her take chances and make interesting choices.
If you want a scary movie, don't buy "Bug." It's that simple. If you want to try something more adventurous, this might be for you. "Bug" got under my skin. It's ambitious, complicated, messy, overwrought, and intriguing in every way. If that sounds like a compliment (which I meant it as), then give the film a look. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
BUG: An Introduction
A Discussion with William Friedkin
Audio Commentary by Director William Friedkin
English and Spanish Subtitles