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Adam Jahnke - Main Page

Bug

Bug
2006 (2007) - Lionsgate

William Friedkin hasn't directed a ton of horror movies but considering that one of them is The Exorcist, many people's choice for the scariest movie of all time, it's worth taking notice when he does dabble in the genre. Past success is no guarantee, of course. Friedkin's last horror outing was 1990's The Guardian, wherein an evil nanny feeds babies to a creepy tree. I've seen worse movies. Not many, but some.

It's for up debate whether Bug, Friedkin's latest movie, even qualifies as a horror picture. If you want to call it a character study or a psychological thriller or something like that, fine by me. But for my money, if it's creepy, intense and frightening, then on some level, it's horror. And Bug is all those things.


Based on the play by Tracy Letts, Bug stars Ashley Judd as a damaged, addicted cocktail waitress who lives in fear of men... one man in particular... in a seedy motel in the middle of Oklahoma. She's introduced to a stranger named Pete (Michael Shannon), who at first seems very sweet, if kind of shy and awkward. She's glad he's around when her abusive ex Jerry (Harry Connick, Jr.) gets sprung from jail and tries to force his way back into her life. But Pete has some problems of his own. Namely, he's convinced that he's been infected with microscopic aphids by the U.S. Army in the Gulf War as part of a government experiment.

Bug is an actor's showcase and Judd, Shannon and Connick are all top-notch. Ashley Judd is a fantastic actress who is too frequently wasted in dull supporting roles or as the lead in the kind of suspense thrillers and romantic comedies that turn up on basic cable on Sunday afternoons. But in movies like Ruby in Paradise and this one, the full range of her abilities is given a workout. Whether or not Bug works depends a lot on if you believe Judd would be persuaded by Shannon. Judd shows just how easy it can be to be pushed into insanity. Shannon is equally good, delivering a searingly intense performance, and Connick is a real surprise as the sleazebag ex-husband. Friedkin's direction keeps this from feeling too much like a photographed stage play while at the same time, keeping the action claustrophobic and tight.

Lionsgate's DVD provides a pretty solid anamorphic transfer and an even better audio track that sounds organic and vibrant throughout. There's a handful of extras on this "special edition" disc. Friedkin narrates... uh, I mean delivers an audio commentary. There are some good moments here but I left the room for large chunks of it and felt like I was listening to a book-on-tape. Bug: An Introduction is a brief, standard-issue EPK piece. By far the best extra here is A Discussion with William Friedkin, an almost half-hour interview with the director that has almost nothing to do with Bug but provides a wealth of other interesting tidbidts, including Friedkin's take on digital cinema, 70s filmmaking versus today's, and more. It's a nice surprise, a candid and informative piece that's not concerned with selling you the movie you've already rented or bought.

William Friedkin has spent quite a few years making movies not quite up to his standards. Bug is a more modest success than his early classics but it's definitely a return to form, a disturbing character study that lodges in your brain and sticks there.

Film Rating: A-
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/A-/C+


Adam Jahnke
ajahnke@thedigitalbits.com


Adam Jahnke - Main Page
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