Make no mistake – this is a fucked up movie. It’s deranged, it’s upsetting, and it’s totally bonkers on a thematic level. It’s also a tour de force masterpiece of filmmaking and storytelling, with director William Friedkin plunging the viewer into an intense personal hell for the two lead characters, played with gale-force gusto by Michael Shannon and Ashley Judd. The nearly hallucinatory cinematography by Michael Grady amplifies all of the tremendous anxiety and stress being felt by the two whacked-out characters, who have become convinced that small bugs have burrowed their way under their skin, as a result of government experiments gone awry. And yet there’s so much more that I’d never give away as spoilers. But one thing’s certain – this movie does not progress in the expected ways.
Darrin Navarro’s razor-sharp editing was in perfect tandem with the creepy musical score by Brian Tyler. And the claustrophobic and intensely realized production design by Franco-Giacomo Carbone stressed the cramped confines of the narrative’s mostly solo-location (a fleabag hotel room), bringing extra dimensions of hostility and fear to the proceedings. Originally written for the stage and adapted for the screen by the brilliant Tracy Letts, this is a pulverizing piece of work, totally unrelenting all throughout, with a shocking and gory climax that showcases both actors going above and beyond the call of duty for their art. There’s nothing “enjoyable” about watching this totally raw motion picture, but that’s sort of the point and intention of the material…to unnerve, scare, and make you think about what you’ve experienced.