Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Transformation


It’s nice to know that William Friedkin is still totally batshit. I give points to Lionsgate for releasing BUG in 1600 theaters and pushing it as a horror movie about people who get attacked by bugs. Ha! Nice one, Lionsgate. Way to tick off horror fans out for gore on a Saturday night.

Ashley Judd plays a woman, several years out of an abusive marriage, living in a rundown motel and drinking too much cheap vodka as she waits tables at a local lesbian bar. A friend introduces her to a guy (WORLD TRADE CENTER’s Michael Shannon) seemingly drifting through town as her ex (Harry Connick, Jr.) reappears, freshly paroled. Judd and Shannon, two lonely people, begin to establish a connection, but he starts to notice what he believes to be a bug infestation in her motel room. It’s based on an Off-Broadway play, so maybe expecting massive bug attacks to occur shouldn’t be the way to go.


Not a horror film, but in fact an increasingly claustrophobic tale of mental instability, BUG doesn’t entirely work but it has managed to linger in my mind the past few days, with sections of searing intensity that are tough to shake. For a film which takes place mostly in one room, it is never less than completely cinematic and there is a freedom in it that feels like the work of a much younger filmmaker. If that had been the case, I would suggest Cronenberg as a main influence, particularly the point-of-view aspect of VIDEODROME, the breakdown in the final section of DEAD RINGERS and the feeling of “ultimate transformation” that consumes some of his best work. But since this is Friedkin he manages to make things ambiguous and clear-cut at the same time, recalling elements of his films both good and bad from years past. It is confrontational in a way that is rarely seen in films these days but if I seem at all ambivalent about BUG it’s because I’m not quite sure what the point of it all is. Maybe the point is simply to be a descent into insanity, but it feels like what may have worked in a stage setting doesn’t necessarily translate completely. Still, Judd and Shannon are fearless in what they project here and the film has an overall sense of true paranoia which will stick around long past the point it gets kicked out of theaters.

One final point: During one scene I realized that I was watching a William Friedkin film in which several people try to restrain someone flailing around on a bed. Something about that seemed strangely comforting.

3 comments:

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks for your thoughts on this. I am looking forward to seeing this as I am a big Friedkin fan and this one looked like he was back on his game, or at the very least was making a Friedkin film again...I hope to check it out later this week...good post...

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Hey, what did you make of the extra shots at the end-- one of the boy's toys draped over the chair, from when she was packing them up earlier, and the other of the doctor laying dead on the floor of the tinfoiled room?

I agree that this was a largely powerful movie, and if it couldn't quite convince me of the transition from jaded and beaten-down to total paranoiac that Judd goes through, it's through no fault of her own. What a performance.

Mr. Peel said...

I wasn't really sure what to think of the extra shots, but for some reason I did flash back to Harry Conick Jr taking a whiff of his son's shirt (I hope I'm remembering it right) as if looking for some reminder of him.

What exactly went down between the two parents and the son is something we'll never fully know, but Connick's character is very possibly not entirely at fault and it certainly resulted in Ashley Judd's character ending up where she does at the end. But I'm just guessing.