Written by Alexandra Grunberg and directed by Simone Kisiel, horror anthology BUGS: A Trilogy will make your skin crawl – for all the right reasons.
“On their own, spiders, parasites, and bedbugs hold their own private horror for those who are beset by the quiet scuttles and slurps of inhuman creatures. But for Diane, Hannah, and Elena, three varied yet eerily similar women, these bugs represent the larger horrors of paranoia, helplessness, and abandonment.”
Composer Miriam Mayer has fitted the anthology with a score that perfectly adapts its musical style for each new segment. Musical tones shift from an avant-garde prickling that matches the first story’s stark aesthetics; to a slower, melancholic drone that reflects the declining state of the next segment’s main character.
Similarly, the lighting and color palettes build a strong contrast between each story. These subtle and well-blended differences have a big effect.
Writer Alexandra Grunberg stars in the lead role for all three segments. Each character is brought to life with sincerity — fleshed out with a different characterization and defining physicality. Grunberg’s performances are skillfully distinctive and you truly empathize with her in each frustrating situation.
As an anthology film, BUGS: A Trilogy is confidently focused in its themes and phobias. The women in each segment struggle to be heard as they face steadily growing fears.
In Hatchling, the first segment, a woman named Diane is trying to help make a young ward feel at home while his mother takes a much-needed break (of an ambiguous nature). Young Elliott – who seems hesitant about this arrangement – shows a blatant disregard for Diane’s efforts. To be perfectly frank, he’s a little shit. Diane is in an awkward position where she must put on a smiling, supportive face, trying to maintain some control over the situation while this bullheaded child does what he wants.
Parasite, the second segment, follows Hannah as she suffers mysterious stomach problems. Hannah tries to speak with her doctor to explain that her pain and discomfort have been getting worse, but her doctor insists that she must continue with her medications. Hannah tries to reach out for support, but her calls are not returned. In isolated agony, she faces accusations that she must be doing something wrong to feel this way.
The third and final segment, Bed Bugs, shows the sleepless Elena who is convinced she must have bed bugs in her home. She voices her concerns to her mother and roommate who either refuse to deal with the situation or tell her that it’s all in her head. Elena knows there must be a problem, but she’s regularly hushed or made to feel as though her fears are just an overreaction.
Diane feels the need to stay positive and “smile” while her efforts are ignored with rude demands for more. Hannah’s health concerns are dismissed, her strength weakening as she feels something growing inside her. Elena is told she must be imagining the things that are happening in her own bedroom.
The underlying message of each segment is crystal clear, despite the fictional nature of the story. These feelings of being pushed, ignored, silenced, and diminished are ones that all women have experienced.
In a press release for BUGS: A Trilogy, director Simone Kisiel eloquently explains:
“I believe that film is a medium through which an artist can use comedy or scares to not only entertain and provide an escape, but to also spur critical thought in the audience,” Kisiel says. “BUGS: A Trilogy presents female issues, horrific fictional examples of a very real oppression in modern American society in a genre that is widely enjoyed and watched by a range of audiences.”
On its surface, BUGS: A Trilogy is a well-balanced horror anthology with an excellently creepy unifying theme, because – let’s face it – bugs are pretty damn scary on their own. But the film also has a topical honesty that bites like a tick; it will burrow under your skin and leave you with a lasting chill.
BUGS: A Trilogy premiered at the Women in Horror Film Festival and is available now through Amazon (and streaming on Amazon Prime). You can watch the trailer below!