A harrowing character study, immersed deep in mental illness and paranoia, William Friedkin's 2006 film adaption of the play BUG is completely unhinged.
Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection) wields a heavy, in your face approach to his source material, a Tracy Letts (August Osage County) play.
I've rattled on to anyone that would listen on how brilliant Letts' "Osage" was on Broadway. No one writes torment, confrontation and searing dialogue like Letts.
Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water, Nocturnal Animals) reprises his Broadway role as Peter, a damaged war vet who sees conspiracies in every corner. Quiet, isolated and meek, he meets a very lonely Agnes (Ashley Judd) in a trashy western town and an even trashier hotel.
Agnes is damaged, fragile and immediately drawn to what she sees as Peter's innocence.
Harry Connick Jr is jacked up and dangerous as Agnes's ex-husband Jerry, fresh out of prison and anxious to pick up his spousal abuse just where he left it in this dingy, desperate hotel room.
As Peter and Agnes grow closer, talking for hours and slowly spiraling into Peter's dark world view, his mysteries boil to the surface, including his conviction that hundreds of little electronic cockroaches are just beneath his skin.
Agnes is at first doubtful. but is soon feeling the itch herself. As the film goes on, we are sucked into the room, with the walls closing in and the paranoia on full tilt.
Watching these two people force out everyone else in the world, believing only what serves their sick narrative, Friedkin carves out a sick, twisted high dive into mental anguish.
Letts gives him the words to play with, Friedkin escalates it into terror. Razor blades open up skin to pull out the bugs, flesh and emotions are ripped raw. When Peter thinks there are bugs under his teeth, he grabs a pair of pliers and pulls them out real time, on camera, as Agnes screams. It's horrifying.
Shannon is incredible. He's always been a fearless actor in portraying unlikable souls. He's full tilt here, squirming backward into something less than human. Judd is also very good, her Agnes making you sad as you watch this dim, sad woman caught in the black hole of Jerry's madness.
We're not talking tin foil hats here, we're talking entire hotel rooms wrapped in foil and riddled with no-pest strips.
Nothing's going to keep the madness out.
I don't know if I'd call this entertaining, but it's undeniably powerful. It's also bloody, violent and crushingly sad.
There's not a person here in front of or behind the camera that's not giving it 100%.
I'll give it a B, but get ready to squirm.
As I said at the beginning, completely UNHINGED.