Lightning Bug (2004)
Director: Robert Hall
Teen duder Green Grave (Harrison), his little bro Jay (Till) and their mama Jenny (Laurence) all live in a not so cozy trailer in Alabama. We tag along with Green as he rumbles with the obstacles laid before him in his goal of becoming a horror special makeup effects guru. Which obstacles you may ask? Try: living in a dead end town, mom’s psycho boyfriend, nutty religious Zealots, dumb friends, a hick Police Department and the list goes on….yeesh…and I thought I had it rough!
The flick is inspired by actual events
Written and Directed by special makeup effects artist Robert Hall who’s grisly work can be seen in ditties like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X - Files, Warlock 3, Crocodile 2, Dead Birds and more, Lightning Bug was an obviously auto biographical account of Hall’s own life (to what level, I don’t know) and that’s where the film’s main strength lied.
There’s was a pure honesty to Lightning Bug that made it quite the appealing experience to sit through, no matter its flaws. I’m sure that all horror fans/aspiring horror artists out there will connect to it on some level. I personally remember my dad (who’s a mechanic) busting balls cause I wanted to work in the horror industry (actually he still tells me to get a “real” job). I also recollect being labeled a “weirdo” when I did presentations on horror films in high school and being looked down upon by the “kool kids” when wearing my Freddy Krueger T- Shirts. It was in that respect that Lightning Bug first and foremost hooked me in. I saw a little bit myself in it, from the dysfunctional home setting, to being a “horror loving outcast” and to fighting the odds in the name of what you care for. If you’re overtly passionate about horror and had a rough time with it in any way when it came to your surroundings, you’ll know what I’m yapping about when you see this movie.
Beers and hookers to Hall for managing to communicate a frank and raw emotional substance within his picture. Many of the scenes on hand stabbed my gut hard with the conflicts Green had with Earl (played by the great Kevin Gage) in particular, whooping my skull to “frustration” zone. I was so feeling it during those scenes! Furthermore, the flick hit pay dirt when it came to delivering the more tender moments. The love story at hand which had our two “social rejects” find each other was sweet in a “ahhhh” way while at the same time sporting a dark undercurrent. It made for an interesting courtship to follow. It surely helped that a Grade A cast was gathered to tell this story as well. They all muscled up the experience via their heartfelt and genuine performances. Lastly not only did Hall’s visual style come through most of the way in communicating his tale but it smacked-down even harder when tackling the bleaker moments of the story. That last block ruined me on an aesthetic and substance level!
I did have two beefs with this Bug though. First it tried to do too much at the same time which made some of the many subplots feel “rushed”. There were just too many characters at play. Some of them weren’t necessary while others didn’t get the exploration or screen time they deserved. I easily could’ve went without Green’s loser best friends, the crazy uncle (why was he in the movie again?) and the religious tight-wads in the name of focusing on the home abuse, the brother relationships and the “lovey dovey” thing…but that’s just me. What's more, I felt that the tone was at times off the charts. The “Talk Show” bit was the best example of that where I was lost as to what the scene was going for. I therefore got nothing out of it.
Overall, Lightning Bug was a rewarding watch, obviously made with lots of spirit and in this cold, cold world, heart and soul goes a long way. Open this jar!
We get lots of special effects acting as the lead character’s creations. We also get a couple of cuts and some light blood.
Bret Harrison (Green) was amazing as the lead and quite credible. I smell great things for the lad. It was gnarly to see Ashley Laurence (Jenny) exercising those acting chops again; she’s always been a fine actress and this role gave her room to shine. Loved her! Lucas Till (Jay) looked like a young Matt Damon and did a decent enough job. If you need “white trash” in your film, Kevin Gage (Earl) is the man to ring up; he simply excels in those types of role. It should be said that the dude looks like he’s related to me…yes I look like white trash too! Laura Prepon (Angevin) gave a layered and natural show that impressed me! Good job and nice rack! Donald Gibb (Uncle Marvin) was entertaining as per usual but I didn’t “capish” the purpose of his role in the flick.
T & A
The ladies get Bret Harrison shirtless and we get Laura Prepon’s back. Not a fair game!
I dug on Hall’s eye, especially when dealing with the darker turns of the picture where his slow motion moments (loved that punch through the glass), his shot compositions and his use of sound all came together to serve up some arresting sequences. This guy’s next film SHOULD BE a “straight” horror movie! He definitely has a knack for darkness.
I “Square Danced” to the rock/country twang of Kevin Kinney and the nostalgic score by Jason Hall.
It's "This Boy's Life" for horror fans! Lightning Bug sported a compelling story, wonderful actors, surprisingly bleak plot turns, strong dramatic moments and genius directorial choices. It also wore its horror hound, war torn heart on its blood stained sleeves and I highly respected that. Granted, the film did suffer of over ambition where it tried to stuff way too much meat into one sitting, therefore lessening the focus on the whole. But thankfully that jive never got bad enough to kill the experience. You going to catch this bug or what?
Writer/Director Robert Hall also plays bass for The Hal Sparks Band.
He’s also the Top Dog behind the special effect company Almost Human.
Actor Kevin Gage has a son with his Ex Wife “Kelly Preston” and is now serving 41 months (since 2003) in jail weed charges. Isn't weed legal yet? FREE KEVIN GAGE!
Visit the Official Lightning Bug Site here:
Visit Robert’s Almost Human Effect Shop website