Reviewed by: Darren Amner

Based on an acclaimed broadway play, Bug is a long anticipated return to the horror genre for its director William Friedkin. It was his involvement with this film that drew me to attend its screening. Playing out from within the confines of a murky rundown motel room, Bug is an intense, often open for interpretation film that will demand the audience see it if only to try and decide what the hell is going on.

Ashley Judd is Agnes, the lonely abused ex-wife of a jailbird, who is still suffering the effects of her previous relationship. She works in a seedy bar and cocoons herself in a tiny, dirty, grimy hotel room that she calls home. She numbs the memories of her past with drugs and alcohol and immerses herself in a place that alienates her from everyone else that she has come to know.

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It's only when she meets Peter (Michael Shannon), a drifter with no real past, that Agnes embarks on tender romance. He gives her a way forward and a chance to finally leave her past behind. This is until her ex-husband Jerry (Harry Connick Jr) is paroled and turns up wanting Agnes back and informing her that he is a changed man.

All the characters come from dark backgrounds and to reveal them would spoil what follows. Agnes has had a tragic past and Peter is very eccentric, so they make an ideal couple; however, things change between them when after rampant lovemaking Peter discovers a bug in the room which will change their lives forever.

Bug is well crafted by horror master Friedkin. His camera looms all round the motel. I liked his long tracking shots to emphasise isolation and his use of shots within the motel room is impeccable. Thumbs up to the production design team and Friedkin's cinematographer, who make this movie as visually appealing as possible given its low budget and very few locations. The final scene contains foil and neon light and has to be seen to be believed. Truly demented but unique.

The script is quite well layered and clearly is designed to secure repeat viewings. It will cause debate amongst audiences. Its marketing has been pretty much non-existent, so it will depend on word of mouth to succeed. The horror is a little unbalanced, it's quite dark in tone and some of its characters are a little one-dimensional - step up Jerry, though Connick Jr is does what he can with the small amount of material he has to work with.

Bug, though, is just so audacious I feel it's trying to be too clever for its own good, and as it played out I became more and more frustrated with it. This is a shame, as the performances are generally good. Ashley Judd cries, drinks and disrobes but not much else. Michael Shannon is clearly the stand-out here; he appeared in the original stage play and his performance is intense, intriguing and believeable, or not if the script has you think otherwise.

Bug is very much open for discussion which is great; however, sometimes I need to see a clear structure which I didn't feel this movie had. For a horror movie it didn't deliver but as a psychological drama it clearly had mental issues on display. Questions are constantly posed and left unanswered, and it ends with an abrupt bang. As I am writing now it is still playing out in my mind which is great, but it was a little too out there for my taste.

Friedkin shows flashes of genius but Bug will never take off and be as successful as its director would like. The likelihood is it will be squashed by better films that can hold their audiences' attention a little more easily. Unforgettable viewing for sure, but not in a 'so bad it's good' way. Pass me the Bug spray, I have some infestation to remove from my mind.

Reviewed on: 24 Oct 2006
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A lonely woman finds romance with a stranger only for things to turn nasty when her ex-husband gets out of jail.
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Director: William Friedkin

Writer: Tracey Letts

Starring: Ashley Judd, Michael Shannon, Harry Connick Jr

Year: 2006

Runtime: 102 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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