Oct 23 2013
I hate bugs. Yes, I am one of THOSE people. Even though I am well aware they all serve some kind of purpose in the circle of life, and even though I know most of them can’t do anything to me, I still hate them. They make me cringe. Something about imagining the clickity-clack of their many limbs just bothers me. Something about their shiny, often ink-black bodies crawling along our walls just unsettles me. I just really dislike insects, on a primal level. On top of that, I am well aware of Ekbom Syndrome. For those who don’t, it is the condition of believing there are bugs crawling underneath the skin. Yes, it afflicts enough people that is has a name.
The movie Bug is pretty much about that. That, and psychosis, and paranoia, and how loneliness can drive us to to insane measures. Also, Bug is creepy, disturbing, and depressing, which is exactly why I am recommending it one week before Halloween. Heads up, though, this one can get pretty nasty at times.
Dude, stop looking at me like that!
As I am sure a few of you remember, I spoke about Bug once before when I made a list of horror movies that are more like plays. That is the first thing about this movie that will stand out to you. It primarily takes place in one location with only two people. Two desperately lonely people, reaching out in any way they can. In this case, the two people are the incomparable Michael Shannon, and the often under-rated Ashley Judd. While I normally wait to talk about the performances in the film a little later on, I want to start out this article focusing on the powerhouse performance that Michael Shannon delivers as the lead in this film. You will feel like you are watching one man, slowly go insane, and taking another person with him. A better actor they could not have chosen.
One of the obvious reasons for that is because Michael Shannon kind of LOOKS like a bug, doesn’t he?
From his oddly mismatched eyes, to the many folds on his face, Michael Shannon is very insect-like in appearance.
See, so really, could there be anyone else as perfectly cast to convince you and the audience (and Ashley Judd) he has Bugs crawling underneath his skin than as man who looks like one? I think not, You look at those beady eyes and those wild mannerisms, and you really believe it. It is also very important that you don’t just look at him as psychotic in his portrayal of Peter Evans. This is not just a sick man, There is a sadness to him. This is a man who is not well, but seems to not know it. Snared in a world of his own creation, this recently released ( but probably AWOL) soldier gets caught up in his own madness until it seems to swallow his whole world. Before all this, though, he meets Agnes White (played by Judd in a depressing, bleak, and brilliant performance) and in the small time she knows him, he manages to sweep her up in it, too. Two lonely souls grasping onto to anything they can to feel a connection. It may be the saddest love story you’ve ever seen that wasn’t written by Shakespeare.
Now seems like a good time for the trailer.
A bleak but visually captivating film.
Flash forward a bit. Peter and Agnes have locked themselves in a grimy hotel room. The room has been entirely covered in aluminum foil and dirty strips of flypaper. The only thing illuminating the room is the glowing, blue bug-lights they are using like lanterns and lamps. By this point, Peter has become more and more paranoid. He is pacing, speaking frantically. Agnes, needing to feel closer to someone, anyone, takes that on with him. Bug is us going on the ride down the drain with them while these two go mad.
There are worse people to be locked in a hotel room with while you go insane than Ashley Judd, without a doubt.
Truthfully, though, regarding Agnes, I feel like there was a sense of ambiguity to Agnes’ actions in this movie. You way walk away from it believing she believed every second of what Peter was telling her. Or, like I did, you can see she was a wounded creature, all alone and empty, who was using the last of the energy she had left inside her to connect to someone else, just as twisted, broken, and alone as she was. This is love in the age of mass murder. This is love, the way an abuser would give it. This is the Romeo and Juliet for the new age, now fresh out of their teens and filled with mental sickness.
The worst part, shit like this really happens. Bug is about as true to life as horror is allowed to get. That is why the film stays with you, like a hypothetical bug of its own, burrowing under your tender flesh and staying there just long enough to drive you mad.
There are people right now, not far from your home, doing shit even more messed up than this.
As these two get more and more paranoid, a third party is introduced, changing everything we think we know up to that point. It also sort of marks a “no turning back” point for our two protagonists, if I dare call them that.
As you know, I tend to recommend darker films, for the most part. I think hopelessness is a big part of life, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with exploring such dark ideas on film. Having said that, Bug has some really brutal scenes and some extreme moments of “body horror”. Self-inflicted injuries tend to disgust me a bit, (as do bugs, as I have already expressed), so for me, this film was a perfect storm of squirming in my seat. It made ME feel itchy while watching it, as if thousands of tiny bugs were crawling underneath my skin, which I am sure is an effect the director wanted.
Oh, and who directed it, you wonder?
I will give you a hint…
Good to see Miley Cyrus has been cleaning up her act. Wait, who is this?
Yes, that’s right. William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist (and the recent Killer Joe). If there is one guy alive who knows how to craft messed-up, yet truly compelling material, it is William Friedkin, and that is just what he manages to do with Bug.
By the way, as I mentioned in my prior article, though didn’t know initially, Bug is based off a play of the same name by playwright Tracy Letts. Hey, if any of you ever hear about a live performance of Bug, please, hit me up on my Facebook or my Twitter and let me know. Would LOVE to see it live, as messed up as that may sound. As for you, if you need a messed up movie that will make you feel like you need a shower, you really can’t go wrong with Bug this Halloween. It is horror in the truest sense of the word.
Also, check out my best and worst horror movies of 2013 list. Would love to hear what you guys and gals think.
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