Could this be one of the first ever spirited, compelling and illuminated horror films?
Sometimes what stinks about independent horror films is that they are beyond amazing and yet there’s no secure place for them in the market, which is the case with Robert Hall’s ‘Lightning Bug.’ Though truly a brilliant film, it could be awhile until you get to experience this gritty, dark and disturbingly real tale about an FX artists dream.
The story takes us to the south where Green (Bret Harrison) and Jay Graves (Lucas Till) are growing up with their single mother Jenny (Ashley Laurence). Green discovers a hidden talent in him, which is FX work, and spends the film growing as a person and building the town’s local haunted house for Halloween. The town is extremely poor and we see many examples of just how ‘trailer park’ they are. Between battling to secure his dreams with no money in his pocket, Green also faces enemies in his new girlfriends (Laura Prepon) mom and his own mother’s abusive boyfriend. Can he escape this tormented and demonic town or will he be crucified by a mob of churchgoers for his creative mind?
What makes ‘Lightning Bug” safely step into the horror genre is how the movie is based in the real world. Just the mere thought that places like this town actually exist is frightening on it’s own. It’s a terrifying thought to think there are people in this world who are “stuck” where they are born- and will never find a way to leave- no matter how bad they want to. The fact of the matter is they ALL want to leave, but never do. ‘Bug’ moves in the same type of pace as ‘Monster,’ only a little different. Both films start out by making you feel bad for the lead, only in ‘Bug’ we stick with him until the very end. Things get worse and worse for Green as the movie progresses as he goes from dealing with his issues with the town to his girlfriends mentally deranged mother to trying to survive his mothers abusive boyfriend.
What’s incredible about ‘Lightning Bug’ is that there are three clear bad guys in it, which is a rare thing in a movie. What’s so remarkable is that Hall is able to intertwine these characters all together in Green’s life flawlessly. The first evil is obviously the town, which is a prison with no escape. The second evil is Ms. Graves boyfriend- the guy is terrifying, he’ll smile at you and then punch you right in the face a second later- he even stabs his own cousin in the legs at one point in the movie! The third evil is by far my favorite character, Greens girlfriends mom (Shannon Eubanks), she plays her part like the mom in ‘Hellraiser’ or the crazy lady in ‘People Under the Stairs.’ She is a super-Christian (as I like to call them) who has a very odd obsession besides Christianity- a pillow. When she lost her husband she began to pretend that her pillow was her deceased husband and she takes the pillow with her everywhere- it’s riotous!
The movie isn’t just troubling it’s actually a really fun watch. There are some really funny moments and the characters are extremely vibrant. The movie runs in over 1 hour 40 minutes so there is plenty of time for characters building. Even The Ogre (Donald Gibb) from ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ makes an appearance and he’s easily one of the best characters. Bret Harrison takes his role as the lead to the next level; he played a truly rememberable performance.
I can go on and on about this movie, it’s just one of those flicks that you want to talk about with your friends when it’s over. For a movie that started out so light-hearted it got brutal and really went into uncharted waters. Never have I seen a horror movie like ‘Lightning Bug’- it’s a new breed in its own. Knowing that 75% of this film is based on a true story only heightens the experience. Fun, fast-paced, energetic, thrilling, terrifying, comical and twisted, ‘Lightning Bug’ is something a filmmaker would be truly proud of.
‘Lightning Bug’ plays October 27th at the Century City Film Festival.