Sometimes a film achieves exactly what it sets out to do, and it does it well. BUGS is one such film. It aims to be a low-fi, Harmony Korine/Larry Clarke-esque take on modern youth and how unattached to society they are. In this realm, writer/director Jack Moxey has managed to do exactly what he set out to do.
BUGS is shot in a gritty, VHS-esque, mildly offensive black and white monotone. Hats off to cinematographer Mark V. Miller for managing to conjure such an uncomfortable looking film that still looks interesting. There’s a distinct ‘late night/very early morning SBS’ vibe to the look of BUGS. The imagery conjures up the smell of wet, sticky carpet, and leaves your feet tingling with an irritating feeling that you can’t get rid of for the duration of the film.
The basic gist of BUGS is that there is a school girl who has been raped and murdered, her body not yet found, and her classmates simply don’t care that she’s missing. They’re too busy looking at themselves in the mirror, getting drunk, deciding what to wear, or chasing down a VCR to play a recently discovered VHS porno. Apathy is the mood of the generation, and it doesn’t take long to realise where BUGS intends to take you on its journey.
Yep, it’s taking you down a well worn path of teenagers being teenagers. Look, your tolerance of such a thing will vary. You’ll either see yourself on screen and think, yeah, that was me as a teen, I can relate, and then #totesrelates an instagram post. Or, you’ll be like me and wish you’d reconsidered your time at the cinema that day.
Here’s a woe is me moment – it’s hard to review a film like this, one that does exactly what it intends to do and does it very, very well. Should a film that intends to explore the mundane life of the bored teenager, and does so with all the verve and excitement of said teenager, be applauded? Well, maybe, but for this reviewer, it doesn’t make it any more engaging to watch disconnected youths be disconnected with themselves and their society.
Performances are solid across the board – the young cast commits to their characters with startling reality and believability. So much so that I have genuine concerns for the next generation. Maybe that’s the point of BUGS, to enlighten about the plight of modern youth. That they’ve been through so much, and have so little to look forward to, that not even the presence of a dead classmate is enough to startle them into life. Before the body is found, one of the characters comments about how the girl ‘better be dead’, otherwise her reputation will be shot to shit if she’s found alive. The flippant nature of the characters feels all too real, and the black and white cinematography, and extreme low-fi sound design slaps the idea home just a little too hard.
Jack Moxey knows what he’s aiming to do with BUGS and achieves it. If Kids or Gummo is your kind of thing, then you’ll dig the heck out of BUGS. If thinking about those films had you trying to scratch an itch you can’t reach at the roof of your mouth, then avoid.
Director: Jack Moxey
Cast: Maisie Felton, James Pulitano, Michael Watson
Writer: Jack Moxey