In Bug, after a woman is introduced to a friend during a night of hard partying, the two spiral into a world where they may be infested with bugs.
Agnes White (Ashley Judd) is a waitress living in a shoddy motel room, receiving strange phone calls from someone she believes to be her abusive ex, Jerry Gross (Harry Connick, Jr.). After a night of partying with her friend, RC (Lynn Collins), and Peter (Michael Shannon), a drifter, Agnes and Peter form a bond and together being to descend into delusion. One morning Peter wakes up claiming to have been bitten by bugs, aphids, specifically. He convinces Agnes of the bugs, among other things and the two become dependent on each other, each feeding into the madness together. When its discovered that Peter may be mentally ill, the line of reality and delusion becomes even fuzzier.
Bug is quite a mixed bag. On the one hand, every performance given is spectacular; Judd and Shannon, especially. Even if you have complete disinterest in the plot, it’s hard to look away when either character is on screen. Since most of the film takes place in a tiny hotel room, it makes their performances all the more huge. However, I found Bug to be almost completely nonsensical at times. Obviously, Bug is supposed to be schizophrenic but there is a line that needs to be drawn so that the plot still makes sense. When Judd or Shannon are ranting it’s easy to tune out and just watch them.
William Friedkin, who has given us many great movies over the years like The Exorcist and Sorcerer, does his best to make Bug an interesting affair. Though the set piece of the motel is small, there are a few tricks visually that make it seem unnatural, like black lighting outside under the eave, and the unusual green tint that permeates much of the film. We are taken for a wild ride through insanity and Bug doesn’t really let up, though it stumbles over itself at times.
In thinking what would have helped Bug be a better film, I’m honestly not sure. The performances were great, the story is ambiguous and gives a sense of insanity the main characters struggle though, and the setting is claustrophobic. Maybe that all makes Bug sound like a horror movie but I never thought to classify it as such, except maybe when Shannon is pulling out his teeth. It’s a film that tries not to be bound by genre and in doing so fails to really be anything. Bug is not a bad movie, just a sloppy one with great actors in it.
I give it 2 crazed Michael Shannon in blue light out of 5.