Bug (2006 film)
|Directed by||William Friedkin|
|Written by||Tracy Letts|
by Tracy Letts
|Music by||Brian Tyler|
|Edited by||Darrin Navarro|
|Box office||$8.1 million|
Bug is a 2006 psychological horror film directed by William Friedkin and written by Tracy Letts, based on Letts' 1996 play of the same name. It stars Ashley Judd, Michael Shannon, Lynn Collins, Brían F. O'Byrne, and Harry Connick Jr., with Shannon reprising the role he originated in the play's premiere, and which he had performed over three different runs between 1996 and 2005.
The film, mostly set within a single Oklahoma motel room, follows a woman (Judd) who becomes involved with a recently discharged soldier (Shannon) who is convinced that the two are being watched by the U.S. government, who infested their room with bugs.
The film debuted at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival before being purchased by Lionsgate, who released the film the following year in May 2007. Bug received mixed to positive reviews from critics, who praised its intensity, directing, acting, and take on paranoia, but were polarized about its writing, in particular regarding the ending. Friedkin and Letts similarly collaborated again on the 2011 film Killer Joe.
A dead body is seen lying in a strange-looking room. The scene shifts to the room of Agnes White, a waitress at a gay bar who is living in a run-down motel in rural Oklahoma. Unable to move on after the disappearance of her young son nearly ten years ago, she binges on drugs and alcohol with her lesbian friend, R.C. Agnes is being plagued by silent telephone calls that she believes are being made by her abusive ex-husband, Jerry Goss, who has recently been released from prison.
One night, R.C. introduces Agnes to Peter Evans, a drifter who says he is a recently discharged soldier. Agnes and Peter's mutual loneliness draws them together, and they start a relationship after Jerry barges into Agnes's room. Peter convinces her that he was the subject of biological testing by the U.S. government while in the military, and says the anonymous phone calls were made by government agents in anticipation of his arrival. Agnes and Peter have sex, and afterward, he tells her that the room has become infested by bugs sent there by the government as part of the experiments.
Peter's movements and behavior become more erratic as he fights the bugs, invisible to the audience, that he claims are infesting his body, and over time, Agnes begins to share in his behavior. R.C. tries to convince Agnes to leave Peter, and mentions that a man named Dr. Sweet is looking for him, but after Peter has an episode, Agnes, who is growing codependent on Peter, slaps her and tells her to leave and never come back. Peter and Agnes isolate themselves from the outside world, sealing themselves in their room and covering it with flypaper and aluminum foil and lighting it with the glow from bug zappers. Peter, believing that a colony of microscopic bugs was implanted in one of his teeth, tears it out of his head with pliers. After examining the tooth using a child's microscope, he believes he sees the bugs in the remains of the crushed tooth, as does Agnes.
Dr. Sweet arrives at the motel and tells Agnes that Peter escaped from a mental institution where he was undergoing treatment and that delusions about insects are a known symptom of Peter's mental illness. Peter kills Sweet, telling Agnes that he was a robot sent by the government. Together, Peter and Agnes elaborate upon Peter's beliefs in a conspiracy, becoming convinced that Agnes's son was kidnapped by the government to lead her and Peter to meet, and that both of them were separately infected with bugs meant to mate with each another and take over the world. To prevent this, Agnes and Peter douse each other in gasoline and set themselves on fire.
During the end credits, the toys in Agnes's room are shown completely intact, with no sign of the aluminum foil, and the opening shot of the film is repeated with the body of Dr. Sweet in the room covered with foil, but undamaged by fire. Which shot, if any, shows "reality" is left unclear.
- Ashley Judd as Agnes White
- Michael Shannon as Peter Evans
- Lynn Collins as R.C.
- Brían F. O'Byrne as Dr. Sweet
- Harry Connick, Jr. as Jerry Goss
Most of the film's action occurs in a seedy motel room. The scenario has three interconnected rooms — a bathroom, a kitchenette and a living room. At one point in the film, the room has several dozen fly strips hanging from the ceiling. At another point the entire room is covered from floor to ceiling in tinfoil. Friedkin has said the tinfoil was a nightmare to work with, because it had to be repaired constantly, and because it reflected everybody who was there, including the crew.
Exteriors of the motel were filmed near Olancha, California, and at Grace King High School while studio interiors of the motel room were filmed on a soundstage (a high school gymnasium) in Metairie, Louisiana, near New Orleans. A grocery store scene was shot at Migliore's Grocery, and the lesbian bar scene was shot at Boomerang's Bar, both located in New Sarpy, Louisiana. The movie took 21 days to shoot.
The story is supposed to take place in Oklahoma, however, the Sierra Nevada mountain range behind the motel belies the setting.
The film score was composed by Brian Tyler, with additional music by Serj Tankian. The end title song "Disappearing Act" was written and performed by Chris Cornell. Jay Faires was the film's music supervisor.
The film's theme song is performed by Serj Tankian, the lead singer of the rock band System of a Down. "Beautiful Day" is performed by Scott Weiland, the lead singer of the rock band Stone Temple Pilots.
Additional artists are Sean and Sara Watkins (of Nickel Creek), Chainsaw Kittens, The Backsliders, Susan Tedeschi, Jerry Leiber, The Coasters, Alvin Robinson, Los Tigres del Norte, Leon Russell, and Brian Tyler.
The soundtrack was released in stores on May 22, 2007.
The film received its U.S. premiere at Fantastic Fest on September 25, 2006, in Austin, Texas. It opened in the U.S. at 1,661 theaters on May 25, 2007. In its opening weekend it earned $3.24 million, and ranked as number four, of the most-seen films of the weekend, placed behind the popular franchise films Pirates of the Caribbean 3, Shrek 3 and Spider-Man 3.
It was released to theaters in France on February 21, 2007. It drew praise from most critics in France, but did not reach the top in the box office. In its opening week in France, it ranked as number twenty of the most-visited films of the week, and earned $216,244 from sixty-six screens.
Friedkin has said that the film would have been flagged, in the 1960s or 1970s, as a horror film, but he insists it is no such thing. He told ComingSoon.net that "There were all sorts of people who looked at Bug, (including magazine people like Fangoria) and they called it a horror film," he said. The horror connection "came from a lot of sources." Friedkin claims that Bug is "in many ways, a black comedy love story. He stated in an interview, that "It's not a genre film, but marketing works in mysterious ways. They have to find a genre for it. 'This is a comedy. This is a melodrama. This is a love story. This is a horror film. This is an adventure film.' Bug doesn't fit easily into any of those categories."
Bug was released on DVD. It was also available on HD DVD as a German exclusive, and has subsequently been released on Blu-ray Disc in Germany as well. A North American Blu-ray Disc release never materialized.
The film received mixed to positive reviews from critics. As of June 2020[update], the film holds a 62% approval rating of review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, based on 133 reviews with an average rating of 6.25/10. The consensus states: "Disappointing resolution aside, Bug uses its claustrophobic setting and cinéma vérité camerawork to tense, impressive effect." Metacritic reports an average score of 62 out of 100, indicating "generally favorable reviews" based on 29 reviews.
At Cannes, Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert remarked, "The film has caused a stir at Cannes, not least because its stars, Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon, achieve a kind of manic intensity that's frightening not just in itself but because you fear for the actors." A year later, he awarded the film 3½ stars out of 4, describing it in his review as "lean, direct, unrelenting" and calling it "a return to form after some disappointments like Jade." He also acknowledged others' criticism of its single-location setting, which he defended by writing, "There is nothing here to 'open up' and every reason to create a claustrophobic feel. Paranoia shuts down into a desperate focus. It doesn't spread its wings and fly."
Judd was praised for her performance by critic Dennis Dermody from Paper, who wrote: "Ashley Judd gives a raw, shattering Oscar-worthy performance." Stephen Schaeffer from the Boston Herald called it "one of the most disturbing horror movies imaginable." The film received generally positive reviews from the U.K. media, receiving three out of five in The Guardian. It was also critic Mark Kermode's film of the week on BBC Radio 5 Live.
The film received an award at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival from the International Federation of Film Critics in the Director's Fortnight section.
Judd was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Actress.
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