[i]Starring Bradford Dillman, Joanna Miles, Richard Gillialiand, and Jesse Vint. Directed by Jeannot Swarc. Rated PG.[/i]
A relic of 1970s B-movies, [i]Bug[/i] entered theaters at the mid-point of Hollywood's obsession with nature-on-the-rampage stories. It's not as intelligent as [i]Phase IV[/i] or as silly as [i]The Swarm[/i], but more entertaining than it has any right to be.
The plot is loosely based on Thomas Page's novel "The Hephaestus Plague", in which a small California town is overrun by roaches, which emerge from the depths after a major earthquake shakes them out. These are no ordinary roaches, however... these creepy-crawlies have the uncanny ability to start fires by rubbing their little legs together. [i]Bug[/i] takes great joy in demonstrating this talent: the firebugs blow up cars by crawling into tailpipes; set people on fire by crawling on them... all captured in disgusting close-up by the camera.
In terms of direction, [i]Bug[/i] never seems able to stick to a particular idea. It starts as a disaster movie as the earthquake hits, switches to monster mode as the bugs emerge, and ends on a mad scientist note with a science professor who is slowly driven bonkers by the creatures. As a result, the film runs the gamut from predictable to gross to bizarre. The second third really delivers the goods; anyone with a phobia of insects will squirm in their seats as the firebugs do their thing.
Unfortunately, the final act -- which arguably should be the most inspired -- ultimately makes the least sense. Dillman's sudden descent into madness is left unexplained. Since the roaches torched his wife and several friends, what possible motivation could he have to breed firebugs with normal roaches? Oh wait, he's nuts. That explains it! What it doesn't explain is how these new roaches become telepathic and super-smart; spelling out taunts with their bodies and laying traps for the unwary scientist.
[i]Bug[/i] is directed by Frenchman Jeannot Swarc, who is best known for the terminally underrated [i]Jaws 2[/i]. Swarc doesn't have much to work with here, and the script is filled with horrible dialogue that the cast amazingly delivers straightfaced. Dillman's Charlton-Hestonish performance is amusing (especially once he cracks up), and the bugs themselves are convincing enough, given the state of effects technology in 1975. All in all, a decent way to kill ninety minutes.