Not to be confused with the Adam Buxton show of the same name, Bug is a 2006 horror film directed by William Friedkin about an alcoholic woman (Ashley Judd) and a paranoid man (Michael Shannon) holed up in a motel room, going increasingly insane.
Bug is adapted from a play by its writer, Tracy Letts, and you can tell – there are only five characters and almost all the action takes place in the motel room. But what Friedkin brings to the film is the uncompromising direction that made The Exorcist so successful. In Bug, as in The Exorcist, Friedkin masterfully uses subtlety and suggestion but when he wants to let it rip, he holds nothing back.
The atmosphere builds to an inevitable crescendo, through Friedkin’s brutal direction, the vividly grungy set design and the two lead performances. A great cinematic two-hander, Bug sees Judd and Shannon start out mental and plummet to Tom Cruise levels of insanity. Shannon is particularly brilliant, doing what he does best as the slowly breaking weirdo apparently being driven to madness by the intensity of his own eyes. Here he plays a similar character to that of Take Shelter, but without his grip on reality. Shannon in Bug makes Shannon in Take Shelter look like Henry Normal. Not that he bears any resemblance to the comedian and producer, but you get my point.
A psychologically intense piece of cinema, Bug is somewhat Cronenbergian – it plays on our fears about sex, flesh and insects in a way that unavoidably invokes the Canadian King of Venereal Horror. And in amongst all the bugs and blood there’s even a weirdly touching story about two damaged people who find each other. With its skin-crawling atmosphere, bold direction and superb acting, Bug is an inexplicably overlooked horror film that’s guaranteed to get under your skin.