Wednesday, November 14, 2007


This week’s movie:

BUG (2006)

Film makers have some nerve these days.

If you’re going to make a film called “BUG”, you should at least have the decency to make it about a government lab near an isolated rural community. The refuse from a secret experiment infects some cockroaches (movie rule #154: always use cockroaches for maximum “bug” effect), making them both super intelligent and super aggressive (plus they reproduce quickly – so they’re also super ……what? horny). They get out and head for toward town. Here’s where you can take time to introduce the main characters and give a little back-story. Cliff is a stranger in town. He's just passing through, really – but he has a secret he’s not telling. Trevor, the sheriff, years ago had a relationship with Sally, the woman who owns the diner. Sally’s been widowed for four years now but has a teenage daughter who is dating (sort of) the smart kid at school – even though the football jock keeps hitting on her. Then, of course, there’s Professor Evans who, by coincidence, is an entomologist (he studies bugs). He will eventually find a way to destroy the bugs, but will be horribly killed before he can tell anybody. There’s the mayor who will refuse to contact the authorities or admit that there’s anything wrong. Then there are the Gladwells (Molly and Dan) who run their farm out on RFD 122, but don’t get too attached to them – they’re the first ones to get killed.

When livestock starts to disappear, the sheriff starts to investigate (it’s a slow week). When the Gladwells don’t show up in town for a week, the sheriff and the stranger go out to pay a visit and find only skeletons – and not funny ones, like in The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, just dead ones. Now the town is up in arms. They want the sheriff to find out who killed Molly and Dan ………..and then ate them. Was it the stranger? It must be ………because he’s a stranger!
Soon the bugs are everywhere, killing (and eating) everybody. Just for a change, there’s this one guy that they don’t eat entirely. The bugs bore into the back of his head and eat his entire insides – so that there’s just skin and bones left – and full of thousands of bugs. The bugs move in such a way so that it looks like the man is walking. He “walks” into town and people say, “Hey! Isn’t that old Fred from the garage? Hey Fred! How’s it going?” But Fred can’t talk – the bugs can only make him say, “SSKKKKKRRRRRREEEEEEEEE!” And they’ll say, “Huh, what’s wrong with him?” “Must have a cold. I hear there’s a bug going around.” Oh course, the entire movie is just a premise to build up to this one-liner. Before the end of the movie, Trevor and Sally will hook up again for old time sake – “I’ve never stopped loving you….”, - and the stranger’s secret will be revealed – and everybody at the government lab will get gobbled up by bugs – and the smart kid from high school will figure out how to kill the queen bug, who by this time has grown to be four stories tall and living in the old abandoned mine.


Make it about a scientist who mixes bug DNA with his own in order to cure his cancer. The cancer goes away ………….but ……..slowly – little by little – by imperceptible degrees ……..he turns into a giant cockroach. At first it’s just a nuisance – he eats holes in people’s cereal boxes and such, and scampers like hell when the lights come on – but the situation goes downhill pretty quick. As a side effect, it makes him super intelligent – but also, unfortunately, super aggressive – and, really unfortunately for his victims, super horny. The authorities come to kill him with torches and pitchforks and boric acid and some guns too (they’re not stupid). However, his fiancée pleads for his life and they let him live. However, he can no longer trust himself not to kill anymore so he commits suicide by rigging up a twenty-foot boot on a large piston. After a long dramatic soliloquy, he presses the button that sends the boot crashing down on him with a loud crrrrrrrunnnnchh! The end ……….or is it? Did anybody think about what happened to the cockroach that got a little of his human DNA?

These are the only two logically possible plots for a movie called “Bug”. However, neither of the two films that I know of, with that name resembles anything described above. One, we’ll call BUG (2002) – one of FranksFilms recommended movies – is a dramady that starts with a small boy stepping on a bug and triggers a cause-and-effect series of events that have nothing to do with bugs (well, there may be a bit about bugs – but not much bugs). If you haven’t seen this movie yet – do it! Now!

Then there is this week’s movie, we’ll refer to it as BUG (2006), which may or may not feature a lot of bugs – I’m not giving anything away (you’ll have to watch it for yourselves) – nevertheless doesn’t resemble either plot, described above, in the least. It does start with a mysterious stranger, which we immediately can tell should be avoided, but for some reason, no one else does. He is troubled – a mysterious troubled stranger, the worst kind – with an equally mysterious past. What is this mysterious past? Will we find out before the end? By the end of the movie, you won’t even remember the question. The movie sets up a little tension right from the beginning. As the film progresses, the tension gathers little tension buddies until you have a tension crowd and then finally a tension mob. Mob behavior isn’t pretty. It kicks butt and takes no prisoners.

Ashley Judd is terrific as a lonely woman who is so grateful to make a connection and fall in love with a “nice” man that she is willing to follow him anywhere – even to crazyville. Things get interesting when his paranoid tendencies start to surface. For Ashley, it’s indeed an Oscar worthy performance, but don’t expect to see any nominations for her – it’s too risky a performance and the Academy doesn’t often reward such risks. I will say this – it is the role of a lifetime, although I’m sure many won’t agree with me. It even features Harry Connick Jr. as the ex-husband, and he doesn’t even sing!

This is what’s known as a polarizing film. I am not referring, by the way, to the 3D IMAX technology, what I mean is that everyone who sees this film either really loves the movie OR really really hates it - no middle ground. About half the people “get it” and the other half don’t. This applies to critics as well – the tomatometer scores around 50% (actually 58%). Interestingly enough, they either love it or hate for exactly the same reasons. The question is, will you love it or hate it. I couldn’t say, what side do you tend to fall in “love or hate” situations? Don’t know? Maybe you need some more info to help you decide.

1. Based on a very successful stage play of the same name. By successful, I mean in Chicago and New York – I’m not quite sure it played anywhere else. It has a stage play feel to it – that is, most of the action takes place in one room (sets are expensive for an off-Broadway production).

2. If you get squeamish at the sight of swarms of creepy bugs – don’t worry. It’s not that kind of movie. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of other creepy things going on – there are – in spades!

3. People who hate this movie really hate Ashley Judd’s freaky intense over-the-top performance in the main character role as her descent into insanity quickens. People who love this movie really love it – like me.

4. It was directed by William Friedkin and many think this is his best movie since The Exorcist. Of course some people think that’s not saying much. Friedkin won the FIPRESCI Prize at Cannes this year. I have absolutely NO idea what that is.

5. It’s different. Normally, it would be a swarm of super aggressive cockroaches that terrorize the main characters. Here, its aphids – too small to see.

6. There’s some nudity and some sex – not with the bugs – with actual people.

7. There is a kind of urgent panic-driven freaky logic that pervades the last third of the movie that, looking back, seems absurd but that made perfect sense at the time.

8. Obsession is dangerous. It’s not the bugs that provide the scares here, that provide the danger – it’s the paranoid obsessions of its main characters.

9. Quite independent of the rest of the film, you will either love or hate the ending. I hated it at first, but the more I thought about it, I realized that when you, for example, head down a road marked “Post Office this way”, don’t be surprised to find a post office down there.

10. It is a frantic and intense psychological thriller that races headlong toward its inevitable ending. Not gory at all, but smart and visceral and terrifying.

It doesn’t feature swarms of cockroaches wearing human skins as disguises, but BUG(2006) is a rarity in today’s horror film landscape – a truly scary intelligent movie ………..with a naked Ashley Judd.


view trailer


At 7:48 AM, Blogger FranksFilms said...

It has just come to my attention that there is another movie called Bug - we'll call it BUG (1975) with a plot very close to the first one described above. My faith in film-makers is now restored.

At 2:39 PM, Blogger Ashley said...

So finally a post on Bug! Great choice as I loved the movie and for the same reason you did -- Ashley Judd's role.

We're all so used to her playing this "revenge on my husband that beat me up" role OR "i'm in love, witty, and cute" role.

It was so good to see her in this crazy, completely submissive role.



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