Bug Conspiracy?

William Friedkin’s Bug is interesting, high-wire filmmaking worthy of the director behind such classics as The Exorcist and The French Connection. Adapting a relatively unknown play for the screen, Ashley Judd and a pre-stardom Michael Shannon headline this unconventional psychological thriller about paranoia and psychosis. Wrongly marketed by Lionsgate as a straight horror film thanks to Friedkin’s reputation, Bug’s nervy roller coaster ride keeps you on edge in a tense and memorably visceral final act.

Agnes (Ashley Judd) is a lonely waitress at a lesbian bar living out of a seedy motel, living in fear of her ex-husband Jerry (Harry Connick Jr.) who has just been paroled from prison. Agnes drowns her troubles in drink and drugs. Her friend RC (Lynn Collins) introduces Agnes to an eccentric drifter with strange ideas. Peter (Michael Shannon) and Agnes start a romance which spirals into conspiracies, manic delusions and paranoid beliefs. The world begins turning on them as Peter discovers bugs living in the hotel room.

Bug is truly one of Michael Shannon’s early career highlights

Outside of a brief scene at the local bar, Bug takes place entirely at the dingy motel room Agnes lives in off a rural strip in Oklahoma. It’s a claustrophobic setting, perfect for the intense and unrelenting atmosphere which pushes Agnes and Peter into the abyss. Friedkin crafts an elaborate array of sights and sounds around the romantic duo, elevating what could have been a filmed version of a one-note stage play into something cinematic and decidedly special.

The acting is impressive from co-stars Judd and Shannon, not to mention the demented roughneck played by Harry Connick Jr. Bug is truly one of Michael Shannon’s early career highlights. His delusional Peter is inspired, a physical and vocal showcase that hints at his deeper talents. Ashley Judd portrays a complicated woman, vulnerable to Peter’s charms thanks to her uniquely bleak backstory.

In the ’90s, Ashley Judd cut her teeth in Hollywood making solid, predictable thrillers. Bug is her passionately stepping into the indie world looking for credibility, taking chances with an edgy role. Ashley Judd proves her acting chops with a genuine and often visceral performance, mixing vulnerability with a sharp edge.

A tale of festering paranoia and how delusions can spread like a social contagion, William Friedkin’s Bug almost anticipates issues that became more prominent after the rise of social media. It’s a disturbing, whiz-bang peek into madness. Unsettling with dark twists, don’t forget to check tonight for bedbugs.

Video

Imprint licenses their HD transfer directly from Lionsgate, reproducing an older 1080p film transfer taken from the 35MM negative. The 1.78:1 presentation handles the gritty video fairly well, tackling it in a satisfactory AVC encode on a BD-50. The 2006 production isn’t a knockout on home video, often resembling an indie film.

Bug is on the softer side with adequate definition. Shadow delineation could be stronger and there’s minor crushing in the darkest scenes. This disc clearly provides better video quality than the original DVD but lacks the film-like polish of today’s newest 4K scans. What the Blu-ray greatly improves are color fidelity and clarity. Contrast and saturation are richer, revealing more clarity.

The basic film transfer is unprocessed and untouched. Grain reproduction is a little spotty thanks to the older scan but primarily intact. Bug certainly has a few vivid scenes, which look excellent here in 1080p resolution.

Audio

Bug’s 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack has several terrific moments utilizing the full surround arsenal. There’s a big, healthy soundstage with clean dialogue reproduction. The dialogue-driven drama doesn’t often need strong bass but it’s there when necessary. Bug’s discrete activity offers impressive separation and a few neat wrinkles, aiding the oppressive atmosphere within the story.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in a white font. Secondary audio includes a stout 2.0 PCM soundtrack in stereo.

Extras

The 2006 movie finally hits Blu-ray after all these years in an English-friendly, region-free edition. Lionsgate put it out on DVD in 2007 but never bothered issuing it on Blu-ray in North America. The film saw a couple of European BDs over a decade ago, now long out of print. Imprint out of Australia issues the thriller in a snazzy BD which pulls over the archival DVD special features while also adding a new commentary.

Coded for all regions, Bug is #258 in the Imprint Collection. It comes inside a glossy slipcase and is limited to 1500 units. Highly recommended for fans of the cast or William Friedkin.

Audio Commentary by Director William Friedkin – A solid, mostly insightful commentary recorded for the 2007 DVD. Discusses how an unknown at the time Michael Shannon’s acting impressed him and the journey it took making the film from a play.

Audio Commentary by author/film historian Troy Howarth and Tony Strauss of WK Books – A newly recorded discussion by the two men exclusive to this disc.

A Discussion with William Friedkin (28:05 in upscaled HD) – Recorded for the original DVD, Friedkin delves into several fascinating subjects covering his early career. The interview doesn’t have much to do with Bug itself but easily worth hearing as he predicts digital filmmaking will completely take over Hollywood.

Bug: An Introduction Featurette (11:52 in upscaled HD) – Typical EPK featurette from the DVD era, featuring brief interviews with cast and crew chopped up for casual viewers.

Bug Theatrical Trailer (01:12 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided by the label for review. This has not materially affected DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit DoBlu’s about us page.

Bug
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

Accomplished and disturbing psychological horror from a late career William Friedkin starring Ashley Judd and a pre-stardom Michael Shannon

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User Review
3 (2 votes)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 38 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots ripped directly from the Blu-ray:


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