*A 2007 U.S. Release*
William Friedkins first film since... 2003s undervalued The Hunted, Bug ostentates Lynchian eerines early on as a magnificent panoramic shot, set to the sounds of a tense encounter between a ringing telephone and an unstrung woman, takes us to a dilapidated, nearly-deserted motel somewhere and nowhere in the American heartland. The squalid room in which the film is primarily set is long being occupied by Agnes (Ashley Judd), a downtrodden barmaid who probably spends a little too much time around alcohol and drugs. She fears that her ex-con ex-husband who mightve just gotten out of prison is behind those empty calls. In the meantime, her co-worker friend (Lynn Collins) introduces her to a drifter named Peter (Michael Shannon) whos ostensibly only looking for a friend. Shy, introverted, anxious, and thus a tad mysterious, Peter ends up engaging Agnes by his read on her situation, and the fact that he might just be a lost soul himself.
Quite possibly the most accomplished passage of Friedkins career thus far, the first hour of Bug could serve as an epitome of formal control: pacing, editing, shot selection (the awkward cutaways to the room air-conditioner, notwithstanding), sound design -- facets which corroborate in ratcheting up the claustrophobic tension to an unnerving level. And during this process, juxtaposing Agness naivet and vulnerability with Peters concentrated intensity wouldnt have been an easy task for the director of The French Connection (1971) and The Exorcist (1973) if he didnt have the right performers: Judd arguably does her best work since her one-scene tour de force in Smoke (1995); and Shannon, who reportedly reprises his stage role from Tracy Lettss off-Broadway play on which the film is based (he could also be seen in the likes of The Woodsman  and Lucky You ), is physically and impulsively mannered even in the most extreme of situations (Nic Cage could learn from him). Collins and Harry Connick, Jr. (the brutish husband) also provide strong support.
Even though Bugs eventual absurdly stylized and surrealistic descent into madness almost seems Eastern European (a whiff of Zulawski is noticeable), its root cause and trajectory lies in the same vein as that of Linklators masterful A Scanner Darkly (2006). And while Friedkins namedrops the Gulf War, the Oklahoma City bombing, Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski, etc., it's less politically savvy about dealing with infestation and paranoia than the Philip K. Dick adaptation. Perhaps itd be appropriate to say that the film borrows Scanners idealistic and moral concept and, for better or for worse, turns it on its supermotherbuggin genre head.
*BUG premiered at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight). It won the FIPRESCI prize.
*Lions Gate Films (U.S.) will most likely issue the film on DVD in late September.