By Brian Hickey
Advertisements for William Friedkin’s “Bug” gave me the idea that it was going to be a B-level horror movie about some sort of infectious bug, directed by the guy who directed “The Exorcist.” In reality, the film is an A- level, creepy, weird, psychological trip down Schizophrenic Lane directed by the guy who directed “The Exorcist.” Normally, getting duped is really aggravating, but in this case, I was pleasantly surprised.
A word of warning: the movie is based on an off-Broadway play, meaning there are two sets and lots and lots of talking. The majority of the film takes place in a tiny hotel room in the middle of the desert.
Friedkin is back in form after 2003’s forgettable “The Hunted.” He opens the movie with an impossibly high camera shot above the hotel. The shot zooms from what feels like miles away to almost right into star Ashley Judd’s face. Friedkin, as an older-school director, uses a lot of camera movement involving longer shots. As the movie progresses and the tension increases, the shots get quicker and more disorienting.
Michael Shannon, reprising his role as Peter Evans from the play, is creepy but touching. That is until you slowly start to realize that (spoiler coming) the bugs he keeps seeing exist only in his screwed-up mind. As Evans progresses from partially creepy to just plain creepy, he begins to tell fantastical stories of army mind control and government conspiracies. His companion, the lonely Agnes White (Judd), humors him just so he won’t leave. Slowly, she begins to truly believe his mistruths, to the point where the pair obsessively looks at their blood under a child’s microscope and cover the entire hotel room with tin foil and bug zappers.
The pair descends into madness as they inflict wounds on themselves to “get the bugs out.” The insanity comes to a head toward the end of the movie as a scientist, who may or may not actually exist, comes looking for Peter. From there, they have a final moment where they “realize” that everyone they know is in on the plot (the plot that is not real).
“Bug” is not a horror movie because there are no real bugs. But it is a horror movie in the sense that what these two do for each other is generally horrifying. It’s well shot and gives a scary look inside a schizophrenic’s mind.