Author: Tracy Letts (play)
Wow, what a film! This is quite an amazing production. Except for a couple scenes and long distance two helicopter shots the entire story takes place inside a crappy hotel room in rural Oklahoma. While the trailers make it sound like this is a scifi flick it is absolutely not: it’s a psychological horror trip. Basically we meet a rundown struggling woman. She’s living in that crappy hotel room, waitressing at a honky tonk bar, and drinking a lot. Her abusive ex-husband just got out of jail and is harrassing her and we learn that years earlier she lost her son (literally he vanished one day at the supermarket). This woman obviously has a lot of baggage. Into the picture comes a strange mild-mannered man. He’s very quiet, polite, doesn’t drink, and seems thoughtful. A little odd, but harmless. He has no place to stay so the woman invites him to crash on her sofa. Soon the two develop a relationship, and then the man finds a bug in the bed. It’s so tiny she can’t even see it but he kills it. He talks intelligently about bugs and seems to know what he’s talking about. Later he finds more bugs, and he gets sprays and decorates their room with fly paper. Slowly the man’s story comes out: he was a soldier and the army did experiments on him and he escaped a hospital where they had him imprisoned. Gradually things get dark and scary: the man pulls out a tooth, insisting it was recently filled at the army base and the evil doctors put in an egg sac in the tooth and that’s the source of the bugs. Paranoia builds into hysteria and soon the woman is completely enveloped into the man’s crazy world, turning her back on her best friend, and absolutely convinced the disappearance of her son was part of the conspiracy. The ending — while predictable and inevitable — is still chillingly real and devasting. The performances by everyone, especially Ashley Judd as the woman, are amazing. The film is claustrophic and you feel your own mind going part-way through. All the crazy theories begin to sound plausible after a while. It’s a powerful demonstration of what can happen if you let yourself believe. Amazing. Definitely not for the weak of heart or squeamish. This film reminded me most of Roman Polanski’s incredible Repulsion, which is similarly constrained to a single room and about a woman going mad. Recommended. I will also add this film is based on a play by Tracy Letts who’s the son of my former college teacher in Oklahoma, Dennis Letts (Dennis’ wife is author Billie Letts).