Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Bug (William Friedkin, 2006)

It makes sense that one of the most claustrophobic films I've ever seen was based on a stage play; "Bug," adapted for the screen by its playwright Tracy Letts, has that personal intensity you expect from a play. There are only five characters, and most of our time is spent with two of them, in a small motel apartment. Those two are Agnes (Ashley Judd) and Peter (Michael Shannon), who are introduced by Agnes' friend R.C., and pretty immediately hit it off. Soon, their relationship becomes less about finding someone to spend time with (as it seems to be for both of them at the beginning) and more about conspiracy theories and, well, bugs. Peter, an Iraq war vet who claims to have been a guinea pig for army doctors, says he's infested with bugs, and soon, he gets Agnes, who seems like a relatively reasonable woman, to believe in him completely.

Giving away much more of the plot would ruin the perfect intensity created in the theater, but Bug's tagline ("Paranoia is contagious") couldn't be more accurate. This is not, as it has been advertised, a gory horror film, but instead is about psychological horror, and what happens in one's own head to cause everything to go wrong. Also, though less obviously, it is a parable about drug (especially crack) use, and how paranoia is contagious through drug use as well. I had the misfortune of catching Richard Roeper's opinions on the film this weekend, and he raised the question of how Agnes would be taken in my Peter. While I don't think it's that simple (not by a long shot), I think Roeper (as usual) is missing a key point about the film: it's about everything but the physical bugs. It's about the government, it's about drugs, it's about war, it's about America.

Bug is a terrifyingly intense and unsettling experience, one that deserves to be seen for its tremendous performances, especially by Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon, who both devote themselves so fully to their characters that I forgot they were actors at all. Friedkin, returning to his mental horror roots, directs it so uncomfortably, a great compliment. The final third lags a bit, with long monologues and little resolution, but there is something in this movie that wouldn't let me go. There were grumbling teenagers after the movie was over, saying things about how it's not scary or gory, but that's the marketing's fault, not the films. If you're looking to be scared, but in a different way, I can't recommend Bug enough.


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