A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this intensely paranoid film absolutely isn't for younger kids. Not a horror movie in the conventional sense, it's still very scary and violent -- an ex-husband hits and frightens his former wife; there's a brutal stabbing murder; a man pulls out his own teeth with pliers; and it's implied that two characters set themselves on fire. There's smoking, drinking, drug use (cocaine and crack), relentless swearing (mostly "f--k"), and nudity (close ups of nipples and sweating bodies, a brief full-frontal shot of a man).
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What's the story?
In William Friedkin's BUG, Agnes (Ashley Judd) spends her nights working in a smoky, noisy Oklahoma bar and her days holed up in a motel room, drinking and worrying. In addition to lingering guilt over a child gone missing six years ago, she's plagued by fear of her abusive ex-husband, Jerry (Harry Connick, Jr.), who's just been released from prison. Still, as sad and beaten down as she looks, most of Aggie's distress is internal. And she's in for lots more.
Is it any good?
In a terrific performance, Judd makes Aggie's emotional dissolution -- most of which takes place inside her motel room -- clear moment by moment. Rather than focusing on the specifics of Aggie's original traumas, the film (which is based on Tracy Letts' off-Broadway play) exposes the ongoing, grueling aftermath. Aggie and fellow waitress R.C. (Lynn Collins) spend an evening with Peter (Michael Shannon, who originated the part in the play). Wondering aloud whether he's an "axe murderer," Aggie is also moved by his strangeness, his utter lack of irony.
Ostensibly a Gulf War veteran who endured "experimentation" by military doctors, he reveals to Aggie that he's been infested with bugs. Though she's initially unable to see them, she soon agrees that aphids (plant lice) are biting him -- and now her. Soon both manifest signs of their paranoia: scabs and bloody marks where they pick at themselves. In another movie (say, Friedkin's own The Exorcist), such flailing would signal possession, or maybe insanity; here the meaning remains aptly unclear.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the effects of trauma. How is Agnes troubled by her memories and her lingering fears? Do you think that the "bugs" are real? What else could they represent? Families also can talk about what genre this movie falls into. What makes something a horror movie? What distinguishes horror movies from thrillers and dramas? What kinds of movies are scariest -- gory slasher films, or suspenseful thrillers? Why?
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