Bug (Friedkin, 2007)

William Friedkin has never been one for subtlety, favoring blunt force trauma in his well known works like The French Connection, The Exorcist, and Sorcerer. His latest film Bug, an unsettling and cramped horror film dealing with two trauma victims who meet, mate, then go insane together, kicks you in the head often and without remorse. Agnes (Ashley Judd), who’s a victim of abuse by her degenerate husband (Harry Connick Jr.), also carrys around the guilt of a kidnapped son 10 years prior. Agnes works at a honky-tonk in some nowhere town in the Midwest, so when she meets Peter (Michael Shannon), a quiet and articulate stranger, loneliness wins out. The two spend most of the film in Agnes’ hotel room, slowly descending into madness, convinced the government has infected their skin with bugs. The horror elements of Bug work brilliantly, such as the stark use of color and layered, infested sound design to counter the character’s crumbling sense of reality. But Friedkin’s film, I’m sure because of it’s source material, feels too theatrical. Character development gets rushed into some sensationalist pacing, ironically producing two stunning, bravura performances by Judd and Shannon. But watching these two convince each other their world is ending only goes so far and Bug left me wanting more. I wish Friedkin had explored the shifting emotions and loyalties of these two fascinating characters with a slower pace, really letting the environment sink in before moving the story forward. By the end, Bug comes across rushed, a short burst of surface area frenzy covering a more complex, horrifying tale underneath.

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