This was the last film William Castle (House on Haunted Hill ), who admired the simplistic concept of nature attacking the human race, and then seeing his favorite director Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963), but wouldn’t engage in the topic until the mid-seventies, well after producing Rosemary’s Baby (1968) his most successful film. For those unaware of Castle’s contribution to the horror genre, understand he was the king of gimmicks for films of the 1950s and 1960s, and partially responsible for Hitchcock making Psycho (1960) and thoroughly used as the centralized character in Joe Dante’s Matinee (1993). The 70s brought the environmental horrors or animal attack movies to forefront, with films like Frogs (1972) and most well-known Jaws (1975); in fact, Bug came out on June 6th while Spielberg’s movie released on June 20th. However, strangely Castle’s production to this day finds itself strangely missing from nature attack pages on Wikipedia, which only lists Mimic (1997), and overlooked in other areas too. While he wanted to return to the theater with another throwback gimmick he was ultimately outvoted, for this buggy flick, nonetheless using the Thomas Page’s novel The Hephaestus Plague (1973) to adapt a screenplay from which he created something to creep upon the viewers even in a b-movie format. Jeannot Szwarc (Jaws 2 ) who made his feature horror film debut when he took the director’s chair for the project which does go from monster movie to a mad doctor flick by the end of it, hence making it horror-sci-fi crossover creation; although he did direct The Devil’s Daughter (1973) a television movie hence understood the concept of these films.
I also need to note that when searching for this production on the IMDb.com, and you type in the word ‘bug’ it doesn’t even present in the top of five of hits, rather you’ll find Bug (2006) no relation to this movie and the next the original title Bug to Wes Craven’s My Soul to Take (2010); instead you’ll have to put an exact title match with the year – talk about disrespect. Now, what kind of bug is shown in Bug, simply cockroaches, while Wikipedia only provided one nature attacking movie, horror fans clearly know of other movies that have them starring in major role such as The Nest (1988) and They Nest (2000), yes they do have minor role in Creepshow (1982). Even as you read this review some might get the heebie jeebies, the creepy crawlers, frankly, bugged out but how many of you serious seek the film out that hides in the dark cervices hiding from the light.
When it comes to horror films exploiting an individual’s personal fears they excel unlike any other genre, drama and action run a close second with the suggestions of infernos, drownings, and war; but herein the aspect of insects crawling on one’s skin, in the darkness freaks folks very easily, especially when you don’t know what’s on your back, was it fuzz from the couch or chair or something more sinister heading for your hair, oh how ineffective your sleep shall be for the night. Bug covers the basis for a b-movie, the cheesy design works to a point, starts with a monster movie feel and ends in a doctor going absolutely mad, yet how does that all happen. An earthquake occurs in a small California town on a Sunday morning causing a crack in the soil with unknown species of cockroaches emerging, they can start fires by rubbing their hind legs together like a cricket. The Tacker father Tom (Jesse Vint) and his son (Jim Poyner) who were at church hurry to their pickup truck and our new visitors have other designs as it explodes frying the occupants, they are aided by mother nature in another regard, the area is a barren wasteland, a severe drought plagues them. Norma Tacker (Jamie Smith Jackson (Satan’s School for Girls )) gets upset that she lost half her family and is unaware of the bugs roaming the landscape, until the incinerating of the family cat’s nine lives who tried to eat one, her boyfriend Gerald (Richard Gilliland), burns his hand. He takes the cat to the most knowledgeable person in town (customary in horror films, similar to that in Gremlins ) James Parmiter (Bradford Dillman (Piranha )), who visits the area and meets the bugs who return the favor and follow him home via his car. However, one makes a fiery introduction to James’ wife, Carrie (Joanna Miles), who was deathly afraid of them in real life, Castle tried to show her they were harmless until it crawled on his arm and bit him. Immediately ordered fake ones for the screaming scene. The body count stays low as halfway through the movie it goes from little monsters to the mad doctor avenue and then right turn to looniness as the bugs collectively learn to spell using their bodies while discovering new things to eat.
First let’s start with positives, as earlier mentioned Castle wanted a gimmick deployed which was to be brushes placed on the seats to simulate something crawling on the patron’s legs; but alas that was met with rejection. As for the cockroach models they were created by Karoly Fogassy and special effects by Phil Cory (Grizzly  and Body Snatchers ), who won an award for them at the Sitges – Catalonian International Film Festival in 1976. If there are any Brady Bunch fans, reading this review, well in life there’s strange bedfellows, then perhaps notice that the Partmiter’s family home is actually the interior of the Brady’s. However, the downside comes from a now dated score, that’s only sometimes effective, and the heavily constrictive budget shows a limited earthquake damage area, which was done from inside a home rather than outside on a larger scale. While Szwarc handled the human and main set piece filming, it was actually Ken Middleham (Phase IV ) who directed the insect sequence I suppose he communicated better with them, especially during some of the cheesy effects. Meanwhile, Castle and Page struggled with dialogue it comes across clumsy; it discounts the religious aspects and how nature will ultimately win.
This movie is only for certain fans, clearly the deaths are horrific in design, while the gore factor is underplayed drastically but carries forth the understanding that one never knows what exists under the soil, deep in the earth, nature’s species all have unique ways of surviving and the cockroaches estimated at least 320-million years old, pre-dating dinosaurs. The film gives the warning don’t mess with God’s creation as it equals fire, brimstone, and damnation, nevertheless, the flick intended only for the monster and insect lovers of the 1970s, everyone else sleep with the lights on.
Oh, one last tidbit, here is a few pictures of the pressbook from Paramount Pictures who released this movie, it showed the different ways to advertise the movie in theater lobbies, while informing the staff about the film. This comes from my private collector’s vault – enjoy, I obtained it from Barrington Movie Poster & Book Shop in Barrington, NJ.
- They Look Like Rocks…Possess A High Intelligence…Have No Eyes…And Eat Ashes…They Travel In Your Car Exhaust…They Make Fire…They Kill.
- You may be their next meal!
- They kill…
- The Picture You See With Your Eyes Closed.
- Out of the worst nightmare!
IMDb Rating: 5.2/10
Baron’s Rating: 5.0/10