“ Genre: War & Western - War / Theatrical Release: 2007 / Director: William Friedkin / Actors: Ashley Judd, Michael Shannon ... / DVD released 25 September, 2007 at Lionsgate / Features of the DVD: Closed-captioned, Colour, Dolby, DVD-Video, Widescreen, NTSC „
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RELEASED: 2006, Cert. 18
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 102 mins
DIRECTOR: William Friedkin
PRODUCERS: Kimberly C Anderson & 5 Others
SCREENPLAY: Tracy Letts
MUSIC: Brian Tyler
Michael Shannon as Peter
Ashley Judd as Agnes
Harry Connick Jr. as Jerry
Lynn Collins as R.C.
Brian F O'Byrne as Dr. Sweet
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Agnes works as a waitress in a sleazy bar with her friend R.C. After an evening's work, R.C. accompanies Agnes back to the seedy motel where she lives, bringing along a strangely quiet man.
The man, Peter, stays with Agnes for a few days after R.C. goes home. Peter is quiet, shy and sensitive, his general disposition gaining the trust of the lonely Agnes.
Agnes is also being pestered by Jerry, her abusive ex-husband who has recently been released from jail.
One night when Peter claims he has been bitten by a bed-bug, which he refers to as an aphid, his relentless search for the insect spirals into something quite bizarre....which Agnes becomes heavily involved in.
I was interested to see the film Bug, as it was directed by William Friedkin who was responsible for The Exorcist back in 1973. Like The Exorcist or not, it has to be said that it is an excellently directed piece of cinematic genius which is one of the most powerfully atmospheric films I've ever seen....so, I settled to discover whether Friedkin had lost or kept his creative skills more than forty years on.
The essence of the initial part of Bug is more about loneliness than anything. Agnes is a young-ish woman who is coping, but is nervous about her ex-husband being on the prowl and could do with a little company....which materialises in the form of Peter.
Bug is a bit of a slow burner as a film, but is nonetheless interesting right from the start. The atmosphere of the tatty, shabby motel in the middle of the Colorado desert where Agnes lives is put across perfectly.
There is a little music here and there in Bug, but not present for large stretches. This music is incidental more than anything, consisting of little blasts of what I can only term as southern rock (not to be confused with country rock) and it does suit the film fairly well, despite not being all that moving or even listenable to for the most part.
Throughout, Bug has the quality of a play about it rather than a film, and the standard of acting is very high.....particularly from Michael Shannon as the somewhat mysterious, quiet and apparently thoughtful Peter. Harry Connick Jr. surprised me as he played the part of Agnes's violent and threatening ex-husband superbly. I can't really, merit-wise, choose one above the other between Michael Shannon and Harry Connick Jr., as each of them's performance is nothing short of faultless. The two female actresses, with Ashley Judd playing the lead as the rather 'lippy' yet vulnerable Agnes extremely well for the most part, but there are stretches during the film where I feel she perhaps over-acts just a little. Similar can be said for Lynn Collins as R.C., although her role is less complex and less significant than that of Ashley Judd's. Both females bounced off of one another very well. The two main characters throughout the film are Agnes and Peter, with the actors (Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon) working well together, although their relationship took some quite bizarre twists and turns as the storyline unfolded.
One minor niggle I had about Bug is that some of the script - as this is a very dialogue-intensive film - perhaps could have been sharpened up just a bit. I'm unsure as to whether I was supposed to or not, but here and there I found what the characters were saying to one another a little amusing....almost as if there was an intentional tongue-in-cheek aspect present. Perhaps there was? I'm still hovering as to 'yay' or 'nay' on that one, but I did find my face breaking out into a smile once or twice.
There is no doubt that the storyline of Bug is an unusual one. It takes what could be thought of as a day to day topic (e.g. finding a bed-bug in squalid motel room), then step by step turns it into something which initially the viewer doesn't expect. I liked that touch, as a predictability factor wasn't present.
From my own point of view, I do feel that a couple of aspects of the storyline were borderline unlikely, more as to how the relationship between Agnes and Paul twists and turns into some strange places. It is difficult for me to explain exactly what I mean without giving too much away about the plot, but although I appreciate the character of Agnes was lonely and perhaps suggestible due to her vulnerability, I find the path that her friendship with Paul led her down to be somewhat unlikely.
As I was watching....having been gripped right from the start....I became increasingly fascinated by what was going on for Agnes and Paul inside of the motel room, and I even enjoyed the very over the top but nonetheless rivetingly entertaining end.
As Bug was a complete unknown quantity for me when I clicked the 'play' button and started to watch, I can now with hindsight say that I was fascinated from start to finish with this rather oddball psychological thriller/drama which perhaps can loosely dip its toes into the horror category. There is a little violence, but it isn't in the slightest bit sensationalist....purely incidental and as a result of - well, I'd better not say as I'd spoil it for anybody who hasn't seen this film and would like to.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Bug, as on the one hand its title suggested to me something along the lines of those daft horror films with titles like Killer Gnats Take Over Gotham City, or looking at the other possible meaning of the word 'bug', it could have been a spy/crime thriller. I certainly wasn't expecting or prepared for this largely well-acted, fascinating and absorbing tale which begins with Peter finding a bed-bug, even with the rather over the top ending.
Would I recommend Bug and would I watch it again? Yes, to both, especially to those like a film which concentrates on characters and dialogue (although that dialogue does need a little bit of an overhaul in parts), but some may find the ending wanders off into territory that is hard to swallow. However, the whole buildup to that ending, which is most of the film, is utterly superb....very well-acted, very well-directed and thought out. Was I supposed to find little snippets of the dialogue a touch amusing? I still don't know, but such simply added to what was my enjoyment of an unusual, very entertaining and mostly intelligent film.
At the time of writing, Bug can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £2.27 to £20.99
Used: from 67p to £20.76
Some DVDs on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Another DVD I managed to pick up for just £2.00 from dvd.co.uk, '''Bug''' was a film I had high expectations for after seeing William Friedkin's (he of The Exorcist fame) name as the director and the cast of the film featuring Ashley Judd and Harry Connick jnr. The synopsis of the film sounded intriguing combined with the DVD cover proclaiming this is to be "intense, gripping and ultimately disturbing" and even though I have a propensity for picking films that don't live up to the advertising hype and tend to believe everything I read I still thought I was onto a winner with this one and thankfully Bug didn't disappoint even though it was undeniably bonkers...
Agnes (played by Ashley Judd) is living in a battered and rundown motel and works as a waitress in a local bar. Having split from her abusive husband who is serving jail time she has very little to her name but has a close friendship with R.C and the two help and support one another. R.C introduces Agnes to Peter, a quiet loner who drifts from town to town - he has few possessions but appears to be kind and attentive, everything Agnes' ex is not. They begin a tentative romance and Agnes offers Peter somewhere to stay whilst they get to know one another and the pair start to become close over time.
Peter is not as he seems though, he knows 'impossible' things, he knows that 'they' are out to get him and he knows that he'll never be safe and the more he tells Agnes about the things that he knows the more she starts to believe him and begins to see things for herself.
Peter is on the road to insanity and it looks like he has company...
Running at just over an hour and three quarters Bug is a film that slowly builds in intensity and, rather fittingly, gets under your skin. Set primarily in a single location that being the rooms of her motel accomodation that Agnes lives in it's more than obvious that the film director's intention was to produce something that had a closed in and claustrophobic film and ultimately he delivers. We are introduced to Agnes straight away and quickly learn about her past and why she is now where she is, she's a broken character, weary of life and suffered too many knocks. She lives in poor conditions, works as a waitress in a seedy bar and lives in fear of her ex-husband and yearns for someone to show her a bit of attention and love. Ashely Judd plays Agnes with great compassion, she is wonderful in the early scenes of the film when setting up the character and plays her with a great deal of sensitivity. The interaction between her and her abusive ex (played by Harry Connick jr) shows us how bad it used to be for her and It is inevitable really that when the character of Peter is brought in that Agnes falls for him and the film focuses on how easy it is to become drawn into believing things that are not real and how the mind can easily be broken.
What makes the film work as effectively as it does is the character of Peter played by Michael Shannon. We don't get to know that much about him when he is first introduced to Agnes, all we know is that he's a drifter and is someone who keeps himself to himself. It's his vulnerability that makes him attractive to Agnes and her instincts are to look after him and to keep him safe, they recognise a need in one another for company and affection and as the film relies on us believing the characters of Peter and Agnes both Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon have to make us care about them and that's what they do.
We know that Peter isn't quite 'right', there is an oddness to him that is apparent - he sees microscopic bugs in the room that the two share and he convinces both Agnes and us, the audience that they are actually there. It's a subtle performance that Shannon gives, he isn't clichéd in depicting a man who is suffering from paranoid delusions, there are no obvious signs that he is mentally ill yet we know that he believes and sees things that are impossible. As the film develops and the characters become completely reliant on one another it makes for compelling viewing to see just how easily someone can be broken in the way that Agnes is. She ends up absolutely believing Peter and the pair go to extreme lengths to protect themselves from those who are out to get them and their co-dependency and descent into madness does make for an often-uncomfortable viewing experience. It's one of those situations where you shouldn't laugh but you can't quite help yourself, viewing the film as the audience you know the things that Peter and Agnes do are ridiculous yet the power of the acting makes you absolutely believe that they think their behaviour is completely rational and 'normal' and it really is to the actors credit that they make you believe them so much.
William Friedkin pitches the film just right allowing the characters time to go from apparent normalcy to that of delusional and its a slow journey we take with them. That doesn't mean that the film feels too long, on the contrary I found myself completely absorbed in it and didn't notice the running time at all however I do think you have to be in the right frame otf mind to actually watch it. It's not a typical American horror film and I think many people will be disappointed if they're expecting to see the usual high action, adrenaline pumping film that they're used to seeing and I expect that many would assume the film to be along the lines of 'Squirm' or 'Worms' given the fact that the film's title leads you to believe that it's going to be about some kind of killer-bug that is on the rampage. This film isn't a horror in that respect, it isn't a gory, blood-splattering scholck affair that provides gross-out moments and unexpected jumps, if anything the film is gentle and rather subtle and you do have to allow yourself the time to get immersed into what's happening and perhaps its appeal will be somewhat limited.
I enjoyed the film, it was undoubtedly different and features some top-notch acting. It is character driven and relies on the performances of Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon and I would certainly recommend it to anyone who likes things that are thought-provoking. I suppose the film is more of a drama than horror even though it is promoted as being a horror film, there are some uncomfortable scenes which may upset some viewers and it is a certificate 18 so clearly has some adult content. For a couple of quid though its well worth buying and there are some interesting extras on the DVD release that make any money you spend on it well spent.
===Region 2 DVD Presentation===
My copy of the DVD is a Lionsgate production and along with the film there are a number of extras:
'A Discussion with William Friedkin' is a fascinating interview with the director who speaks about the film and his thoughts behind putting it together. Its a great addition even if it is a little short but a welcome inclusion all the same. Friedkin also provides a 'Directors Commentary' which I have to admit to not listening to as watching the film once was enough for me and I didn't fancy spending another 90 minutes listening to what he had to say about the filming process. It's there though should anyone want it and again a good inclusion.
'Bug: An Introduction" is a behind the scenes feature that explores the sets used and has interviews with the cast and crew, again it's rather short in length and doesn't offer that much of an insight and was probably used as promotional material from when the film was originally released. There are subtitle and language options should anyone need them and overall the DVD provides enough to lift it from being a standard vanilla release even if Friedkin's discussion is perhaps the most enjoyable of the extras included.
Cinematography wise the film is presented in a very bleached out and sepia toned way with browns and beiges featuring heavily in the colour palette used. There are a few violent moments which are shown in vivid colour and these contrasts nicely, the use of tight camera angles and small sets provide a real sense of claustrophobia which was the directors intention and the film does have a very insular feel to it. The soundtrack is unremarkable really featuring tension-building piano chords as an accompaniment, the film doesn't rely on audible jumps as a cheap way of scaring its audience and the music used is probably best described as 'mood enhancing'.
===Conclusion and My Rating===
For its price there's very little to complain about as far as Bug is concerned. Don't expect a 'creature-feature' even though the title would lead you to believe that this is what it's going to be, instead its a film that plays on the insecurities we all have and our need to be looked after and loved even if it means losing your mind in the process. The journey into paranoia and delusional behaviour is well explored here and Bug offers a completely believable premise that is well explored and exploited, the acting is terrific by all and even though I don't think the film has much in terms of re-watch value I would still recommend it to other people.
It's cheap enough to buy outright and can be found on amazon for a little more than I paid although even at £2.99 it's still a great price for a great film, 4 stars as a rating seems fair to me basing this on everything I have discussed in this review, it's excellent but not quite a five star film for me.
Overall: buy it, this is a film that deserves to be seen.
Thanks for reading my review, please note that this also appears on ciao under my username.
Directed by William Friedkin (The Exorcist), 'Bug' is a psychological thriller which builds suspense strongly throughout, with Friedkin always displaying his fine talent as a director here. 'Bug' builds and builds, becoming darker, and increasingly more disturbing as the film progresses.
Agnes (Ashley Judd) is a lonely waitress that lives in a motel in Oklahoma. Her friend from work R.C. one night introduces her to a man named Peter (Michael Shannon), a troubled soul who used to be in the army. He spends the night sleeping on her sofa, and as time progresses these two trouble souls develop a rather interesting friendship. They have sex with each other once; it's not a romantic relationship that they share though, but instead a rather bizarre connection on a pretty disturbing level. They both become convinced that there's a bug infestation in the hotel room, and as time progresses they become more and more convinced of the existence of the bugs, and increasingly more paranoid about what it is that the bugs are doing in the motel room.
Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon gel well with one another here, and their supreme quality of acting really does stand out strongly. We spend much of the film with these two actors, and their success as actors here is therefore crucial to the overall outcome of the film. The way they speak to each other is certainly not conventional; the only conversation they share tends to be on the subject of bugs, they're drawn to one another though, and the way they interact together is not just disturbing, but also incredibly interesting to watch and observe.
'Bug' is an odd film which focuses in on two seriously disturbed people; their increasingly fragile state of mind is brilliant to watch played out on screen, and never for a second is the film in the least bit boring. Friedkin directs the film beautifully here, and the intense nature of the film really does come across incredibly well.
Right from the word go there's an inevitability here that the film is going to become incredibly dark, and this is something that makes the film or the more compelling. The film is forever building, and as it all progresses; Friedkin's fine thriller certainly doesn't disappoint.
'Bug' really draws you in, and the quality of acting is at all times absolutely sensational. It's the acting that really stands out, and although the script and quality of directing is excellent here also; it's really the connection between Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon that makes the film feel so real.
'Bug' is an incredibly high quality thriller, and a film that I'd most definitely recommend watching.
'Bug' can currently be found at Amazon.co.uk at a price of £3.98.
Down-at-heel waitress Agnes White spends her days in a miserable, run-down motel room and her nights working in a local bar. In spite of her terrible loneliness, Agnes is reluctant to get involved with anyone new, having been through a wretched relationship with her husband, Jerry, who she believes is currently in jail. At work one night, her best friend R.C. introduces her to a stranger named Peter Evans, a gentle, mild-mannered and shy man. When R.C. is unexpectedly called away, Agnes and Peter are left to entertain one another. Initially nervous around one another, they both gradually warm to one another, with Peter eventually staying the night, albeit on the sofa.
But Peter Evans isn't quite the man that he purports to be, His calm exterior masks a disturbed past - and very soon, it's about to catch up with him, as Agnes's is about to catch up with her.
Renowned for his seminal horror classic, The Exorcist, director William Friedkin's latest film is a far subtler work. Friedkin has always had a strong interest in the more psychological elements of terror and in Bug he explorers this in some depth. The approach is at times very effective, but it all eventually suffers from a claustrophobic, stifled plot that irritates more frequently than it terrifies.
For a debut piece, Tracy Letts' brooding screenplay is certainly competent, if not entirely effective. The reality is that this is a slow-burner, which is almost always a risky proposition for a modern film audience who expect their intrigue levels to be maintained, if not increased at regular intervals. The reality is that Letts is only partly effective in this, appearing to jump time-wise in a reasonably hasty manner, which makes the prolonged scenes of dialogue frequently tiresome.
For a psychological thriller, Bug is surprisingly simple. With subject matter related to the military, post traumatic stress and other paranoid conditions, Bug is only as complicated as the audience chooses to make it. Based on the very real condition known as Morgellon's Disease (google it, for more information) Bug's central narrative is striking but nowhere near as twisted, or convoluted as many would expect and it's hard to work out what Friedkin was trying to say here. Marketed in some ways as a creature feature (which it certainly isn't) Bug is really a study of vulnerability. It's all worthy enough, but so detached from the audience that it has no real lasting effect and, for me anyway, is certainly never frightening, The film's 18 certificate is merited by a couple of fairly bloody scenes, but only in short, limited bursts.
There are no problems with the cast. For a film that is almost entirely carried by the two central characters, credit must go to the two leads. Agnes White is an Ashley Judd that we've seldom seen before. Haggard, scruffy and disillusioned with life, Agnes is hard work in every way imaginable but it's hard not to sympathise with her. As events take one more turn for the worse, Agnes becomes increasingly desperate and emotional, but Judd is always convincing. Michael Shannon's Peter Evans is even more impressive, transforming from quietly unsettling into utterly terrifying and taking everyone with him. Supporting roles from Harry Connick Jr and Brian F O'Byrne are also strong, albeit with limited screen time, Connick Jr particularly convincing as another bad boy.
It's certainly fair to say that Bug is a well-made and often intelligent thriller, that never really conforms to genre standards. Whether or not this makes it a good movie, however, remains to be seen and ultimately, the whole thing is a little tiresome.
The region 2 DVD was released on February 25th 2008 and can currently be purchased for around £13.
In the 70's and early 80's William Friedkin caused untold controversy as he continues to shock us with his movies. He started off with The Boys In The Band, The French Connection, followed shortly after, and although movies like Wages Of Fear, Cruising, To Live And Die In L.A. and Rampage all mortified audiences nothing caused as much controversy as The Exorcist, a movie that was censored across the world. With the exception of 1990's Guardian in which a Nanny turned evil, Friedkin has given horror a wide berth; but it seems that with the lack of attention to his last movies Friedkin needs that bite of the big cherry again. While not entirely horror Bug unnerves its audience with a psychological tale that has again caused a bit of a stir.
Agnes White (poor man's Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd) is a lonely woman living in a nasty little motel in the middle of nowhere. Obviously sheltering the wounds of a previous relationship, she is edgy around men and most especially the telephone. It's not long before it comes apparent that she is in fear of ex partner Jerry Goss (Harry Connick Jr.). To her friend she is insistent that Jerry is about to return into her life, even despite the fact that Jerry is safely away in prison.
Agnes' good friend R.C. brings a man round to Agnes' for a night of alcohol and drug taking. Peter Evans (Michael Shannon) is not the normal run of the mill kind of guy. At first he seems a little simple, but beneath that exterior is an incredibly intelligent man who desperately needs something, what Peter needs is a friend.
Peter talks hard line paranoia, which seemingly goes un-noticed by Agnes as the friendship that originally was a plutonic one because suddenly sexual. But it seems that no sooner than Peter and Agnes made love, than Peter starts to act strangely, he becomes obsessed with bugs and mites that inhabit Agnes' home. Initially unable to see these creatures, Agnes listens to Peter's strange tales of medical experiments gone wrong, and army cover ups. At first fearing him, Agnes starts to see some truth in Peter's ramblings, and then suddenly she sees the bugs that are causing him so much aggravation.
Is Peter paranoid, and has he convinced Agnes of the same; or are in fact they just part of a deeply disturbing government experiment that is about to go horribly wrong?
Bug at initial inspection does not do much to draw you in, the presence of Ashley Judd in my mind is cast iron box office poison; having never starred in a movie that I ever thought could be classified as a landmark in movie history. You further distracted by Harry Connick Jr. And Michael Shannon, who the hell is he anyway? Shannon as soon as you see him because strangely familiar, but not to the extent that you're going to get excited about this picture. The only thing about the movie that made me remove it from its case and stick it in my DVD player was the name William Friedkin, and I'm sure that I would not be alone in that decision making piece of ingenuity. I say ingenuity because what happens out of these pieces of wreckage is the same thing that often happens in these cases, Bug disturbingly turns out to be a fantastically addictive movie that captivates you from start to finish.
What is most astounding about Bug, is the fact that you're looking at a five handed movie, yes just five actors support this entire movie (unless you exclude the odd extra as the story begins). It moves further forward to becoming for the most part a two hander with just Shannon and Judd managing to make the picture seem so much bigger than the sum of its parts.
On a first viewing you believe that you're slowly being drawn into a paranoid world, but the reality is upon a second inspection that the psychological game playing starts the very second that the opening credits finish. You just don't realise that it was there all along, there has been no build up, and it's like a thump to the chest, thankfully without the pain.
Bug focuses on the things that we all hate and enhances them a hundred fold. We all hate to be enclosed, and more or less the entire movie takes place in Agnes's dingy miserable motel room. It's an unpleasant place to be ad stinks so strongly of the 1980's you can almost smell it. The second thing to disturb is the bugs, which although are ever present in the movie you never once get an image of one, although to some degree you think you might have; rather like Agnes you may have been pulled into Peter's world, if of course it is after all in his own head. Finally it's that fear from within, we all have things in our passed that we don't necessarily want bought back up, and Peter's slow dissection of both Agnes' and his own past could put a tear in your eye, as well as leave you feeling unsettled about what's going on.
As Agnes and Peter go on a downward spiral into a life too disturbing to believe you almost venture on this journey with them. What if the government do commit such offences against ordinary people, making them guinea pigs in their world of intelligent warfare. The spiral is sudden as the motel room goes from being grubby and disturbing to an incredibly sterile place, filled with polythene and silver foil. When the huge welts appear on their bodies despite of all their careful planning to keep the flesh eating bugs at bay, your heart goes out to them, but that nagging feeling that it's all in their head keeps you centred.
The lovemaking between Peter and Agnes is horrible, although you don't see anything to cause offense (all the nudity cleverly shot) there is something abhorrent about the whole thing, the saliva running from one to the others mouth, the greasy sweaty rumblings, and the disturbing colour glows of the room. Agnes' seduction line "Come here boy!" is equally as offensive, it seems almost like she is seducing a child, especially after an earlier conversation in which she points out that he talks to her like she could be his mother.
The acting is brilliant from all parties Judd starts run down and is believably so, and this is praise that is hard for me to put into words as for the most part of her career she symbolises everything about Hollywood that that's wrong, off the basis of this movie I believe that she has the potential to become something far better rising to the same level as Jolie. But it's the transformation that Shannon puts into his character of Peter that is most impressive, it's like watching 1986's movie The Fly, like Peter has undergone some massive transformation, making him change from weak bodied and weak minded, to something hideously monstrous and seemingly indestructible.
Bug does not dawdle on its journey, it gallops at a mammoth pace; and even though you can predict what's round the corner it makes it no less harrowing. Having given you a marathon journey its finale will rock you to your very core leaving you mouth gaped open at the things that are transpiring on your screen. Even though you see it coming, even though you know it's coming, and no matter how hard you try not to get away from the film your stuck to it to the very end. It's an emotional journey like no other recently made film, and probably not the sort of journey you'll take for a long time after.
I have one criticism of Bug, and that's the fact that you could never sell it to someone via the aid of visuals. No trailer could ever do this justice, and clips could either under or oversell the piece. Likewise if you happened to stumble upon the movie halfway through you'd never watch it, it just seems far too insane.
Bug is enjoying a limited but sell out tour of cinemas, with a UK DVD release date of February 2008. The DVD has no special features with it, and although normally this might sadden me in the case of Bug less is most definitely more. If you enjoy a good psychological suspense movie, there are going to be few that will fill your expectations like this. I'd go as far to say that of all Friedkin's movies, in my eyes this is his best, by a mile.
Spencer Hawken 12/07