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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.
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+
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