Plot: Agnes (Ashley Judd) is a down her luck waitress, working at a rundown bar and living in a jank motel room. Her life is kind of a mess, as she doesn’t know how to move forward after her child vanished and her abusive ex-husband was carted off to prison for a while. She spends time with her best friend R.C. (Lynn Collins) and one night, she is introduced to Peter (Michael Shannon), an odd, but polite and friendly man. The two seem to have some chemistry, despite Peter’s offbeat persona, but when ex-husband Jerry (Harry Connick, Jr.) arrives fresh out of prison on parole, Agnes is thrown back into the chaos of her old life. But Agnes resists Jerry’s forceful tactics and Peter sticks around, staying at the motel with her, but he seems to have a problem. He claims that bugs have been biting him and while Agnes struggles to see his proof, he soon begins to show signs of bites and abrasions. This lights the fuse on a spiral into paranoia and desperation, as the two try to cope with the bugs and according to Peter, the dark, powerful forces that made the bugs possible.
Entertainment Value: I think Bug is a fantastic movie, one that proves horror doesn’t have to be a madman in the woods or a supernatural menace, but that our inner demons can be the source of real, powerful fear. This is a slow burn, hellish descent into an abyss that is rooted in real life, from mental illness to conspiracy theories to how some of our basic, human needs can lead to toxic consequences. The movie was based on a stage play and that is evident in the smaller scope of the production, but the cramped, confined location only serves to enhance the atmosphere. The premise is a simple one on the surface, but opens all kinds of doors as it unfolds and wants to twist your brain in some fun ways. As effective as the narrative and atmosphere can be, the cast is what makes Bug such an eerie, unsettling experience. Michael Shannon is beyond great here, in a role that just drips with menace and unsettling presence, but he also conveys a sincerity that makes all the paranoia and desperation seem plausible. I think this is still one of his finest efforts and he steals the show in Bug. Ashley Judd is also quite good, while Harry Connick, Jr., Lynn Collins, and Brian F. O’Byrne turn in solid performances here. A tense, claustrophobic and just outright unnerving experience, Bug is a masterful horror movie that earns our highest recommendation.
A couple of topless scenes, some ever so brief full frontal, and a few bare ass shots can all be found here. The nakedness is quick and isn’t graphic, but it does add some sleaze to this sick, twisted cocktail. This is a dark, unsettling movie and that vibe runs through all the elements of Bug, including the bursts of violence. This includes nasty abrasions and skin rashes, a man pulling out his own teeth with a wrench, and a knife assault, all of which are dank and fit right into Bug’s atmosphere. The tooth work is the most blood soaked, but the entire movie has like a layer of filth and nastiness that is hard to explain, but it permeates the experience. The dialogue is riddled with paranoia, panic, and total desperation, with the banter between Peter and Agnes as a constant source of delusion and tension. Perhaps not a lot of wild or quotable lines, but the creepy, grimy vibe is so strong here, even in the dialogue. The escalation is so well handled too, especially in Shannon’s character development. On the craziness scale, this isn’t a gonzo, over the top kind of insane, but a grounded, fairly plausible and intensely horrific kind of insane, a constant downward spiral that has to be experienced. The performances, the premise, and the atmosphere are all just soaked in this unsettling presence, a total mindfuck from start to finish.
Overall Insanity: 8/10