Lightning Bug Blu-ray Review
Green Graves spends much of his free time watching horror movies, creating models of monsters and designing makeup. He has dreams of moving to Hollywood to work on special effects makeup. But for now, he’s in Alabama, living with his single mother, Jenny (Ashley Laurence, the HELLRAISER franchise’s protagonist Kirsty Cotton), and his younger brother, Jay (Lucas Till, Havok in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS and 2014’s X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST).
While he’s 2,000+ miles away from Los Angeles, he’ll have to create his own outlets for his passions. In one instance, Green (Bret Harrison, The CW’s REAPER; Fox/The WB’s GROUNDED FOR LIFE) nearly gives a local farmer (Bob Penny) a heart attack when he makes a mold of his beloved pig, then rips its inside open and displays an ALIEN-like creature from its chest. From there, he earns a spot designing the town’s spook house they put up every fall. He plans to use his cut of the ticket sales to head west with fellow horror buff Angevin (Laura Prepon, better known as Donna on THAT ‘70S SHOW) and leave every last bit of misery, including her mother’s abusive, booze-loving boyfriend (Kevin Gage, Michael Mann’s HEAT) behind in the Central Time Zone.
In its better moments, LIGHTNING BUG has hints of the kind of movies David Gordon Green used to make before he turned to stoner comedies like PINEAPPLE EXPRESS and YOUR HIGHNESS. (Perhaps not surprisingly, four years after LIGHTNING BUG came out, writer/director Robert Hall worked on the makeup effects for PINEAPPLE EXPRESS.) But Green’s early works, like GEORGE WASHINGTON and UNDERTOW, at least are developed and have something to show. LIGHTNING BUG, it seems, is instead pieced together from the scraps of various indie dramas.
Hall (who would later helm the 2009 slasher LAID TO REST and its 2011 sequel, CHROMESKULL) based much of his debut feature, LIGHTNING BUG, on his own life, having grown up in the south teaching himself the art of movie makeup. While the attempt there should make the movie more personal and real, it is riddled with obvious and commonplace elements. Take, for example, Jenny’s boyfriend, who, of course, is only abusive because he drinks a case of beer with dinner. Or the majority of parents in the town, who think horror movies and Halloween are evil and damaging, meant solely for Satan worshippers. Hall may very well have encountered the bulk of what’s presented, but the audience has still seen these characters and scenarios so many times before.
Hall clearly wanted to share the story of his upbringing, and how he escaped the clutches of vicious church groups and made a name for himself (sort of) in Hollywood, with credited work on such TV shows as BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, ANGEL and FIREFLY. Good for him and all that, but Hall—who is a better makeup artist than writer—should have only saved this story for cast and crew parties.
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. As it was shot on Super 16, LIGHTNING BUG should have a level of grain throughout. Purists will be happy that this Blu-ray maintains it completely, while others may mistake it as flawed. Overall, this is a faithful transfer that rarely attempts to pretty up the picture.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English Dolby Digital 5.1. Considering the budget, it’s no surprise that the audio quality of LIGHTNING BUG offers very little. That said, the transfer here is passable, with clear enough dialogue throughout.
Audio commentary with writer/director Robert Hall: Hall offers a lively, personal track, serving up many tidbits on LIGHTNING BUG’s production that aren’t touched on in the featurettes.
Audio commentary with writer/director Robert Hall, producer Lisa Waugh and actors Ashley Laurence and Laura Prepon: Waugh, Laurence and Prepon join in for this second commentary, which isn’t nearly as intimate as the first but does have more dimension to it.
AfterGlow: A Look Back at LIGHTNING BUG (24:34): This featurette gathers a number of key players (Hall, Pepron and Gage, to name a few) to reflect on the making of LIGHTNING BUG.
Luciferin: The Making of LIGHTNING BUG (20:47): This featurette is very similar to the previous one, in that it uses interviews and on-set footage to offer a look at the movie. The major difference is that it is recycled from the initial DVD release and so the comments are more immediate than in “AfterGlow.”
Deleted Scenes (19:08): There are more than a dozen collected here, all with optional commentary by Hall.
Also included are Trailers, Outtakes, a Photo Gallery, and a Kevin Kinney Music Video.