by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Bug is the film version of a stage play - basically a two character psychological drama about the lethal combination of paranoia and loneliness. Ashley Judd plays a lonely bartender, divorced from a violent convict, living in a flop-house motel in the middle of some white trash desert hell, she's surviving without companionship or prospects and abusing any recreational substance she can acquire. Through a concatenation of circumstances, she ends up hooking up with a shy, polite drifter. He quickly progresses from sleeping on her floor to joining her in bed, and in her hopeless desert he seems to be a movable oasis.

Gee, he's nice.

Only one slight problem. He's as nutty as a fruitcake.

Once he gets in that bed of hers, he quickly concludes that it is filled with bugs. Ashley can't see the bugs he points out to her, but he seems rational at first, even scientific in his evaluation of the situation, so she goes along with his conclusions. As time progresses, he becomes ever more obsessive about the bugs, and she is drawn into the obsession. We begin to suspect he's not all there when he buys an entire hardware store full of sprays and no-pest strips, but that's only the beginning of his battle with the insects. The drifter's bug obsession becomes more and more maniacal until by the time the film ends, he and Judd are living in a unique made-for-paranoids world, with everything in the hotel room covered with tinfoil except for the bug zappers hanging everywhere. Along the way the drifter offers the explanation that he has had egg sacs implanted in his teeth by the mad experiments of government scientists. No problem, though, he just rips out the suspicious tooth.  On camera.

It's fundamentally just two people in a single hotel room getting crazier and crazier. Each moment of the film tries to make us squirm a bit more than the preceding one. The harrowing denouement resembles that of Requiem for a Dream, except that the catalyst is madness rather than heroin.

In terms of commercial prospects ... well, as we say in Texas, this puppy was doomed from the get-go. It's the kind of movie where if it were done really poorly, people would hate it, and if it were done really well, people would hate it even more. Either way, it would provoke a lot of walk-outs and a lot of negative reactions. As it turns out, it is done quite well, but that just rachets up the ugliness of the viewing experience, and invites even higher levels of audience negativity. The script gradually increases the intensity of the characters' madness, which in turn amplifies the intensity of the audience's experience until the story explodes in a crescendo of destruction, as you might expect. (Not much room for a happy ending with this premise.)

Bug is effective enough at achieving its goal. Unfortunately, that goal basically consists of shocking us with deeper and deeper levels of dementia. I have to admit that the film did get under my skin, so to speak, and thoroughly creeped me out, so it's fair to say that the film is quite brilliant in its own way. If Edward Albee were a young man today, he might be exploring alienation with this sort of treatment rather than through The Zoo Story. But brilliant or not, Bug represents a thoroughly depressing and unpleasant viewing experience, and that's not going to put a lot of butts in the theaters, and among the few butts that do get planted in those seats, a high percentage will be leaving before the film ends.





Guess who directed this fim.

It's William Friedkin. Remember him? In the 1970s, he directed four consecutive strong films.

  1. (8.00) - The Exorcist (1973)
  2. (7.90) - The French Connection (1971)
  3. (7.32) - The Boys in the Band (1970)
  4. (7.25) - Sorcerer (1977)

The top two on that list earned him Best Director nominations from the academy, and he won the statue for The French Connection. But those four films remain his four highest-rated theatrical movies, and some of his later projects have IMDb scores better suited to softcore porn films. In fact, Bug's 6.7 is the highest IMDb score achieved by any theatrical Friedkin film in the past two decades. It's not the lavish, big-budget film you might expect from a graying Hollywood legend, but rather the type of committed, strident, emotional, subtext-heavy film made by young, bleeding-edge directors like Aronofsky or Assayas. Despite its box office failure, it received some solid reviews and created some buzz at Sundance, so maybe it is a springboard to a second career for Friedkin, who is now in his seventies.


No information available at press time.







It was nominated for an Oscar for cinematography.

2.5 James Berardinelli (of 4 stars)
3.5 Roger Ebert (of 4 stars)
58 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)
62 Metacritic.com (of 100)


6.7 IMDB summary (of 10)
D+ Yahoo Movies

What about the extremely low Yahoo score?  (It is one of the lowest ever. Yahoo has a softball system so lenient that Deuce Bigolo, European Gigolo is rated C!) Well, Yahoo voters are probably more representative of the mass film audience than IMDb voters, who lean toward film snobbery. The Yahoo score tells you that mainstream movie goers generally hated it. The critical and IMDb scores tell you that more thoughtful viewers may have hated it just as much, but had to acknowledge its effectiveness.


Box Office Mojo. It received fairly wide distribution (1600 theaters), but was a complete bomb. It opened opposite Pirates 3, and in competition with Shrek 3 and Spidey 3. It managed to finish fourth behind those three, but a very distant fourth with a mere three million. (Pirated took in $114m.) It followed that poor start with a poor finish. It dropped 60% in week two and finished with just a bit more than seven million.


  • Michael Shannon and Ashley Judd do full frontal and rear nudity.


The exterior shots of the hotel/apartment, which was supposed to be in Oklahoma, were actually filmed on location at an actual motel on U.S. route 395 in Olancha, California, a town of 134 people wedged between Death Valley and Sequoia National Park. (If you flew directly from Carmel to Las Vegas, you'd fly over Olancha almost at the mid-point, but the town might better be described as the middle of nowhere.)

Here are two links to satellite views of the motel. Just zoom or change to a "map view" to get additional perspective.


Web www.scoopy.com

Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


It is quite an effective movie, but it's effective at being unpleasant, so ...