Bugs in the Belfry: The Crazy Genius of Bug

When William Freidkin's Bug hit theaters,
the movie left many viewers confused, even angry.
Based on the picture's previews and poster art,
audience's unfamiliar with the Tracy Letts play it was
adapted from, thought they were going to see another
Saw or Hostel or whatever Lions Gate
horror film was currently released. But, nope. They
saw something far superior. Too bad so many didn't
appreciate it. As I sat in the theater (I saw the
movie alone, on my birthday, which was an oddly
perfect personal present) I heard jeers, witnessed
walk-outs and when the credits rolled, grumblings of
"wanting my money back." I however, couldn't
wait for the fascinating freak-out to come out on DVD.
Happily, since yesterday, it has done just that, and
after watching the picture for the second time, I'm
re-running my review. If you missed it on the big
screen, now's your chance to catch up on one of this
year's best movies. Or rather, catch this
Bug.

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"Guess I'd rather talk with you about bugs than
with nothing to nobody."

There's a moment in Bug during which I was
so significantly moved, I almost crumbled in my
theater seat. It comes when Agnes (Ashley Judd), the
worn out, drug abusing, but still beautiful (in that
way only certain kinds of damaged women can be)
realizes she might be a alone again. As her newfound
future partner in psychosis, Peter (Michael Shannon)
leaves her; she closes herself in her seedy motel
bathroom and sobs. In spite of presenting herself as a
tough cookie -- she needs this guy. He's a lot smarter
and sensitive than her ex-husband (a bullying, abusive
Harry Connick Jr.) and in spite of some of his crazy
rants, she likes the way he talks.

And then...he returns and reveals his distinctly
special problem. The reunion of these lovers is so
weirdly romantic and such a relief, that you almost
forget it will be poor Agnes' undoing. If love is mad,
if love is crazy, then Agnes and Peter are, as Laura
Dern stated, "wild at heart and weird on top."

So begins their folie à deux but one that moves
beyond these lost soul's tortured union and into
modern ideas of conspiracies, post war insanity,
disease, infected blood and the kind of paranoia that
can spread like wildfire once the flame is (quite
literally) ignited. And of course, it's also about
bugs, aphids to be specific, though they're not
swooping down on the pair a la Mimic --
they're horrifyingly in their blood, brain, skin,
teeth and, even more terrifying, we can't see them. We
simply have to believe. Or rather, we have to
want to believe. I certainly wanted to
believe, just so these people's lives would make the
labyrinthian sense they so desire.

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Directed by William Friedkin and adapted from Tracy
Letts's stage play, Bug is a movie that will
baffle, excite, horrify and anger those who can't stay
with its unwavering intensity. It will even in moments
provoke titters, purposefully so, which should be
honored rather than mocked -- obsession can
be very, very funny. Bug is a rare picture
that balances realistic, literal psychological horror
with metaphorical meaning with small punches of
satirical wit. It's nothing like you've ever seen and
so skillfully, artfully executed and so brilliantly
acted (especially by Judd ) that the result is less
movie and more wide awake fever dream. If you can
relate to paranoia and desperate love in any way, you
will meld into this movie -- and that only lends to
its horror. It is (I'm not going to mince words here),
a masterpiece.

href="http://sunsetgun.typepad.com/sunsetgun/2007/09/the-super-mothe.html">Read
the rest of my Bug review at Sunset Gun
.