A biography that’s a horror story? A horror movie with a tinge of biography? Another big surprise comes our way tonight with a copy of “Lightning Bug” our friends at Image Entertainment sent over for us to review. But as we’ve been discovering lately, a unique idea is a fine start, but a fine start needs a proper finish to truly get anywhere. Will “Lightning Bug” make that trip, or will it wind up a smear on our collective windshield? It won’t be out until January 18, but when it does emerge, you’ll want a copy.
“Lightning Bug” is indeed the biographical tale of a man whose name you may not recognize, but whose work you likely will. This is a portrait of our gent in question as a young man. His is not a happy life; he’s tormented by bullies at school, and being a smaller lad he’s not the sort who would do well defending himself. His home life is little better, as his abusive stepfather keeps both our young man and his mother under his thumb. But this young man has a talent for monster effects, and has recently gotten a nice parcel of good news in that he’s been given the job of construction the town’s annual Halloween spook house. He even meets an attractive young lady who seems to share many of his passions. But the good times don’t last, as a local religious group decides this is the year to take out the spook house for good, and the young lady he’s met has a few secrets of her own.
The young man in question is none other than Robert Hall, writer and director of the film “Chromeskull 2: Laid To Rest”, and effects worker on “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer”, “Angel” and “Teen Wolf”. This young man’s story, meanwhile, will provide inspiration to most anyone who sees it. What he does to get the haunted house gig, for example, is distressingly potent. But downright amazing by any standard, especially in terms of realism.
Fair warning, though; parts of this will be tough to watch. There aren’t that many people out there who enjoy watching an abusive stepfather go to town on a family, and that will happen more than once. Some liberties have likely been taken with the story itself; the last 15 minutes or so are likely at least 80 percent whole cloth. Still, the convincing nature of the proceedings is part of what makes it as powerful as it is. Of course, the plot twists won’t be near so unexpected, but then, with something like this, this isn’t about plot twists. This is about a story that would be downright disastrous if we didn’t know how it ended, because while the movie itself has an extraordinarily sad ending–well, kind of–the story after the movie’s events is much, much better.
As for special features, we’ll get a set of audio options for those who have the home theater capability to take them on, a set of commentary tracks, a whole second version of the movie (an extended cut running 110 minutes), two different featurettes about the movie, one a making-of and the other a retrospective following its completion, a set of deleted scenes complete with optional commentary from Robert Hall, a set of outtakes, a music video, a photo gallery, and both an original trailer and a Blu-ray trailer for “Lightning Bug”. About the only thing missing is subtitles, of which I’m never happy about the lack.
Still, “Lightning Bug” is a potent piece of work that puts up a grand, inspirational story. Through adversity on all sides, a young man goes on to be more successful than anyone would expect. It’s a story that transcends names–it could be the story of just about anyone. But it’s still a story that should be seen at least once by most everybody, and by some, on a regular basis.