Directed by William Friedkin
Ashley Judd as Agnes White
Michael Shannon as Peter Evans
Harry Connick, Jr, as Jerry Goss
You know sometimes you'll see something with bugs crawling on a tv show or you get surprised by a spider or bug or rodent in your house and then you feel like something is crawling on you the rest of the night?
You know how sometimes you'll read an article or a book or hear a talk show about the Bilderberger Group or Obama's FEMA camps and then you start to obsess on these big conspiracies that you could probably do nothing about, even if they were true? Well, unless you are Jesse Ventura and some cable network gives you a show so you can go harass those people and places at the heart of the conspiracies.
Basically, this movie is both of those, wrapped up in a big folie a deux (madness shared by two.) It is a tense brutal movie that takes place almost entirely in a small, slightly grimy motel room in Oklahoma. When Agnes' only friend brings the quiet but seemingly nice Peter over before a party, he and Agnes start their brief but intense, co-dependent relationship. In an extra on the DVD, actor Michael Shannon, who plays Peter, says that he thinks this is really a love story, though a love story between two very damaged people. I would agree with that, but have to add the caveat that it isn't the uplifting, make your life all better kind of love we usually think of. It's the kind of all-consuming, irrational, dangerous love which often leads both people on a downward spiral fueled by their own neurosis, false beliefs, and weaknesses.
I keep thinking of the true crime story about a 'vampire clan' led by Rod Ferrell. I'm not sure that they all really believed they were vampires, the Dracula or Lestat or Jean-Claude variety who must drink human blood to survive and can't go out in the daylight, but there was a kind of group-mind that happened, just like in any other cult, where a part of you knows that what's going on is wrong or too far, but you are so far in that you don't know how to get out.
Obviously, this movie is also about paranoia. It never really answers what exactly propels Peter's delusions and it even leaves some doubt that they are suffering from a delusion. But, as with all mental illness, there are really only a matter of degrees between real life conspiracies, what we view as typical paranoid conspiracy theories, and the ravings of delusional people. Are there parasites in our bodies? Well, there can be. There's even a show on cable, on Nat Geo, I think, about people getting parasites. Has the US government done testing without consent on people? Sadly, yes. Does our government spy on us? Yeah, it's called Echelon and if a person says certain keywords in their phone conversations, it is flagged so a human agent can listen to it. So when this is the truth, who's to say this guy is so crazy? What is more interesting is why how a grown world-weary woman could so easily start to share this same delusion.
I would definately recommend this movie, as long as you don't mind the seeing the scratches and gouging and..., well, that spoils too much, that come when you think you have bugs under your skin.