By: The Beard of Doom
Date: May 18, 2014
The legendary William Friedkin is not only famed for directing illustrious films as 'The Exorcist', 'The French Connection' and 'Cruising', but he is also known to go to extreme lengths to get the desired realism in his scenes. Firing a gun close to the actors' ears; even slapping a genuine man of the cloth (Reverend William O'Malley playing Father Dyer) in the face to realize the most intense reaction possible prior to shooting the pivotal last rites scene in 'The Exorcist'. Is 'Bug' able to live up to the intensity of the aforementioned films?
It is crucial to inform you that this film is based on the 1993 play of the same name by Tracy Letts, that also included Michael Shannon reprising the same role as he does in Friedkin's on-screen adaption. We are introduced to Agnes White (Ashley Judd), who leads a solitary and unfulfilling life, residing in a run-down Oklahoma motel, escaping from her abusive ex-husband Harry and grieving the disappearance of her son Lloyd. Basically, her life consists out of hanging out in a sleazy lesbian bar, drinking to forget and snorting with her only friend R.C. One night, R.C. introduces her to the peculiar and introvert Peter Evans (Shannon). One thing leads to another and Peter ends up spending the night at Agnes' place, which is the start of a budding relationship. One night, as Evans discovers an aphid in her bed, he reveals a horrifying theory on where these bugs come from and slowly but surely, Agnes begins to notice them as well. What is real and what is not?
The tagline of this film is “Paranoia Is Contagious” and that line hits the nail on its head. If you are expecting and/or looking for a straight forward, simplistic cinema horror; leave this film be. No monsters, no demons; this is real fear. Are we still controlling our own lives? What if we are not? That is what makes this film truely frightening. It is with great conviction how Shannon portrays the role of the unfortunate Peter Evans, who truely gets to you and unsettles you down to the core with merely the power of suggestion. This film weighs so heavily on the senses, it is almost cruel to witness the downward mental spiral, leading to absolute destruction of oneself and dragging others down with him. It grasps you, shakes you and leaves you dumbfounded.
William Friedkin is a master of suspense and absolute psychological horror. It is one thing to understand the pressuring feeling in one's mind when panicking. Channeling that feeling and portraying it on screen is something else. The shaky, claustrophobic camera work of which have had the pleasure or discomfort experiencing in 'The Exorcist', the delicate sound details; the sound of helicopters hovering by for instance. Is this a hint towards the viewer that the characters are being observed? Are they actually being observed? Are those sounds paranoid delusions? This movie leaves little space left in your mind and it gives you so much to think about. I have not had this feeling often. Come to think of it, I guess that reading Orwell's '1984' and 'Animal Farm' was the last time.
All in all, this is an overwhelming and smart film, easily capable of discomfiting the viewer. I do have to add that the ending was slightly abrupt, but it does not do much harm. This is not just one of my favorite works by Friedkin but one of my favorite movies overall, in any genre. For the impatient people out there, this one might start of a tad slow, but I tell you, it is well worth the wait.
Ashley Judd, Michael Shannon, Harry Connick Jr.
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