By Brett Mullins
Directed by William Friedkin; Written by Tracy Letts
Within the opening scenes of William Friedkin’s Bug, I began to suspect that the film would soon descend into an ambiguous slasher, comparable to a cheesy adaptation of The Strangers. As the film progressed, however, I witnessed a tale that will make the audience question all they’ve ever rationalized.
Agnes is a lonely waitress living in a rundown motel amid the barren land of Oklahoma. She soon meets Peter, a drifter with curious past, and a romance sparks between the two. It is at this point that the bugs arrive. Peter first notices one on the bed then on the pillow. Soon after, they are all throughout the room. Peter and Agnes become consumed with the extermination of the bugs which challenges the boundaries of their realities.
Bug features standout performances from Ashley Judd (Agnes) and Michael Shannon (Peter). Their on screen chemistry is nothing short of amazing; this being illustrated most effectively in the film’s final twenty minutes as the two exchange dialogue at an ever increasing rate, pushing the pacing of the film faster and faster and challenging the audience's ability of human rationalization.
It is quite evident that this film was adapted from a drama. Besides the slim number of characters and locations, the film retains the feel of an on stage performance by focusing on the characters more than the environment they’re placed in.
Despite a slow start and mediocre production quality, Bug will surely wow audiences with a perplexing story and a poetic conclusion. It baffles me how this film and its actors were not recipients of any major awards for this brilliant and unique work of cinema.