Bugcrush – dir. Carter Smith
The eerie, disturbing short Bugcrush may have lead writer/director Carter Smith to bigger things by directing Scott B. Smith’s adaptation of The Ruins (they both fall under the category of “nature horror”), but the latter couldn’t begin to compare to the dread, mystery and alarm Smith mastered in Bugcrush. At once, a tale of high school cruelty and gay first crushes quickly turns into one of the most genuinely unsettling horror films I’ve seen in a long while.
Against the advice of his best friend Amber (Elénore Hendricks of The Pleasure of Being Robbed), nerdish teen Ben (Josh Caras) pursues his sexual attraction to the sketchy new boy in school Grant (Donald Cumming, lead singer of The Virgins, frequent model for Ryan McGinley) in the way any high school homo would, by acting “cooler” than he is and hoping to move a “friendship” into something a bit more exciting (not to mention spying on him in the locker room). When Grant, whom Ben sees hanging out with a pair of local “tweakers” (including Billy from Billy the Kid), appears to be more receptive to Ben’s transparent attempts than Amber would have guessed, things start to get creepy.
More than simply a “Your mother told you to stay away from the bad kids” lesson, Bugcrush throttles the viewer with an unshakeable, consternating atmosphere. The sort of mood-oriented tension Smith creates is the kind that’s woefully missing from most of the horror coming out of Hollywood, which makes the fact that his Hollywood follow-up was only passably good the more unfortunate. Available as part of Strand’s short collection Boys Life 6.
With: Josh Caras, Donald Cumming, Eléonore Hendricks, David Tennent, Alex Toumayan, Billy Price, Harlan Baker
Screenplay: Carter Smith, based on the short story by Scott Treleaven
Cinematography: Darren Lew
Country of Origin: USA
US Distributor: Strand Releasing
Premiere: 20 January 2006 (Sundance)
Awards: Short Filmmaking Award (Sundance)