'Bug' Out: Friedkin's Latest Scratches Thriller Itch

Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon in 'Bug'. Credit: Anthony Friedkin. i i

Gone buggy: Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon see crawlies everywhere in Bug. hide caption

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Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon in 'Bug'. Credit: Anthony Friedkin.

Gone buggy: Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon see crawlies everywhere in Bug.

Bug, the new psychological thriller from director William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection), got its start as a paranoia-driven stage play by actor-writer Tracy Letts (Killer Joe).

The film won the international critics' prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006, but it's only now getting a U.S. release. It features Ashley Judd, Harry Connick Jr. and Lynn Collins, as well as Michael Shannon, who starred in the Off-Broadway production.

Movies based on stage plays can seem, well, stagy — or else they get opened out in ways that dilute the poetic compression that makes them great theater.

But Bug, which centers on the shared madness of two lonely misfits who build a shared sanctuary and then literally bug out, retains that compression: It's moody and expansive — a real movie — but it feels like being trapped, in real time, with people whose backs are firmly against the wall.

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