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'Lightning Bug' Review

Lightning Bugby Jason Lees, MoreHorror.com

Now, it’s not exactly horror, but I think Robert Hall’s 2004 character piece LIGHTNING BUG has something that a die hard horror fan can really get into. It’s a semi-biographical (let’s hope) little movie that really took me by surprise.
In it, Green Graves (Bret Harrison) is a teenage FX prodigy living in Nowhere, Alabama just trying to scrape enough cash together to get to Hollywood, where he’s sure his ability to make pretty damned impressive gore gags will get him to the top. The problem is that he has to overcome his poor white trash status to get there.

What could’ve been a preachy is here handled with absolute honesty, which is especially impressive considering that writer/director Hall was pretty green to cinematic storytelling when he tackled his own biopic. The man had already earned his status as a top FX designer when he brought his story before the camera, and just how good it is amazes me. Later he would go on to make films in the LAID TO REST series, calculated crowd pleasers, but here the man takes risks and several chances with a movie that by no right should work. Let’s face it, telling your own life’s story as your first film comes off as an act of absolute narcissism, but there wasn’t a moment in LIGHTNING BUG that seemed self congratulatory. Yes, the story is only about 75% true, using facts as a jumping off point, but it’s not that Hall is trying to fool us. He never once says it’s a true story. He just used his own life as a starting off point to tell a story, and it’s a damned interesting story.

Another thing going for LIGHTNING BUG is the amazing cast. With all those years in Hollywood, Hall has made friends with some pretty talented people. Look at his cast: Ashley Laurence from HELLRAISER, Kevin Gage from HEAT, and Laura Prepon from OCTOBER ROAD are just a few of the more recognizable names, but each and every member of the cast is pitch perfect (even the locals that at first seem terrible really shine). Not only does Hall have an artist’s eye for detail in his design work, but when it comes to filling out his ensemble, the man’s either a genius or really damned lucky. Look at his acting troupes in the LAID TO REST films. The man can build a company.

LIGHTNING BUG is an exceptionally good film. It’s a drama set against a pretty depressing backdrop of alcoholism and abuse, but never too dark that it loses its focus or ability to impact. It’s not a fun movie, and it’s not a horror flick, and it never forgets its purpose. It’s simply trying to tell a story, and Hall does that with a natural grace. It’s too bad that this flick disappeared back on its 2004 release, because I’d have loved to see what he would’ve done next.

I loved the first LAID TO REST, but now that I’ve finally seen LIGHTNING BUG I’m getting a better picture of what the man is capable of producing. Let’s hope Hall gets the chance to make more films where his heart is really into them. With the savvy he’s learned from his more recent projects, I can’t wait to see what else he can do.

LIGHTNING BUG isn’t your next wet chunkblower. It’s a nice, quiet, mean and lean character study that just so happens to be about a kid who loves horror. What more can you ask for?

Watch the entire Lightning Bug movie on HULU.

Lightning Bug Trailer

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