Based, supposedly, in large part on the life of its writer and director Robert Hall, Lightning Bug is an odd mix of eclectic elements that comes together in a lumpy mass that’s at some moments fascinating in its small town drama and at others over the top in its acting and writing. It’s as if it can’t decide if it wants to be a down-to-Earth story about an young man attempting to break free of his dismal home life or a hokey love story with horror elements that pay too earnest an homage to stereotypical caricatures. Were it not for Bret Harrison, Laura Prepon, and Ashley Laurence at its center, Lightning Bug would have been smushed into a glowing paste beneath the weight of its unnecessarily goofier elements.
Since he was a child, Green Graves (Harrison) has obsessed over the spooky culture of Halloween, and it eventually led him to become a self-taught prodigy when it comes to reproducing character molds from the horror films he avidly seeks out. That passion leads him to seek out the position as the organizer of the town’s annual haunted house, and also to his romance with Angevin (Prepon), who works the local movie rental store desk, tells stories of her brief stint in LA and seems to share Green’s fascination with the movie industry. Unfortunately, their relationship doesn’t sit well with her devout Christian mother who seeks to sabotage Green’s “satanic” show. With all of that going on, Green doesn’t even have a home to turn to for comfort as his mother (Laurence) has married a lout of a man prone to drunken rages, leaving Green’s mom, younger brother, and himself in constant fear for their safety.
Outside of Harrison, Prepon, and Laurence, the characterizations are taken to such extremes as to be impossible to take seriously and it greatly hinders the final act when all of the menacing forces of Green’s life conspire to ruin what should have been his one perfect night and his chance to earn his freedom from his present circumstances. Had Angevin’s mother not been played up to the point of cartoonish villain, his best friends not been the epitome of redneck foolishness, and Green’s stepfather not been crazy beyond belief, it would have made everything that much more real. Instead, his life feels like an overacted horror film where the monster in question is human stupidity of varying degrees with different outlets.
Blu-ray Bonus Features
A number of extras pad out the Blu-ray release including a retrospective featurette (as the film was made over 8 years ago), a production featurette, two audio commentaries with Robert Hall either alone or with stars Ashley Laurence & Laura Prepon, and Producer Lisa Waugh. Finally, deleted scenes, outtakes, a music video, and an extended cut of the film are also included.
"Lightning Bug" is on sale January 15, 2013 and is not rated. Drama. Written and directed by Robert Hall. Starring Bret Harrison, Ashley Laurence, Laura Prepon.