A drama/thriller, set in the South, about a young boy who longs to escape the misery of his childhood and the misunderstanding of his hometown. A gifted, self-taught, special effects make-up artist, Green dreams of going to Hollywood to make his own monsters. But the real demons of Green’s life threaten to hold him back: a drunken stepfather who terrorizes his mother, a group of religious fanatics who want to destroy his work, and the love of a girl who can’t let go of small town life
With a title like “Lightning bug”, (if you are like me) you probably have been wondering what kind of film this is and why it’s sometimes associated with horror. For clarification, this is not a horror film, but it is certainly themed around the subject of horror. The film stars the talented Bret Harrison in the role of “Green Graves” (“Reaper” TV Series), Laura Prepon (“That 70’s Show” TV Series) as “Angevin Duvet” and Ashley Laurence (Hellraiser icon) as Green’s mother “Jenny Graves”. In more supporting rules we have actor Kevin Gage as “Earl Knight” and Josh Todd as “Rusty Knight” (yep, lead singer from former BuckCherry musical group).
The film, as we’ve been informed, is a fictional version of the director Robert Green Hall’s upbringing (Robert is a well known SFX makeup artist who wrote and directed this movie). The film centers on a backwoods country town which takes root in the set location of Fairview, Alabama.
Green, his brother Jay (Lucas Till) and his mother Jenny reside in a dilapidated trailer style home living small on food stamps and minimal income. Jenny meets local Earl Knight who promises a better life on his $16K income a year. The locals are church going folks and working class citizens. From this spawns a variety of local characters who include Greens friends and his new love interest Angevin Duvet.
Green is a talented fx artist who lives out of his books on makeup and prop building. His room which is cluttered with horror memorabilia and FX tools sets the stage for this story. Green hopes to impress the local haunted house director Tightwiler (Bob Penny) enough to gain him a small gig to build up his portfolio. His sculpture skills and model-making talents are above excellent but its never gonna help him in this po-dunk setting. He meets Angevin, a local video story clerk who shares his fascination in horror and film. Soon the town is offset by Green’s haunted house creations and his relationship with Angevin. Her mother is a strict religious church follower (Holy Calling of the Southern Saints) who hopes to plot the town against Green and his creations. Rusty Knight (who is quite obsessed with is custom job vehicle) is Jenny’s cousin who often butts head in drinking binges with Earl.
In all, this is designed to be a simple “feel good” movie that never really truly completes its 3rd act. Earl is projected as a brute and alcoholic who offsets the family to he point of violence and revenge.
“Lightning Bug” has thriller elements but stays more within a love interest setting, achieving ones dreams and overcoming the confines of a small town. If you walk away with those 3 points then you’d got what you came for.
Now something that threw me for a loop was the inclusion of an “obvious” tribute-product shot of the “Laid to Rest” movies (located on a video shelf). “ChromeSkull: Laid to Rest 2” was seen sitting along side its origin movie “Laid to Rest”, though “ChromeSkull: Laid to Rest 2” didn’t arrive on the scene till year 2009. with this film debuting in 2004. Which tells me that it must have been a “later added” scene orchestrated by (also) director Robert Hall. The bluray which received a 2013 release, is most likely the reason for this “film out of time” inclusion.
Other subtle gags include Ashley Laurence picking up an issue of Fangoria which features Hellraiser II on the cover. Fangoria got a big push in this release with issues laying around and various branding inclusions being showcased.
Lightning Bug” will appeal to horror fans for its subject matter, but fans shouldn’t expect much in the way of real horror film content. The movie has a solid story that carries its weight with the acting talents brought into production. Cute, clever and dramatic, “Lightning Bug” is good film watching that won’t offend.
Lightning Bug (2004)