Saturday, January 12, 2013

Blu-ray Review: LIGHTNING BUG (2004)


Label: Image Entertainment
Region Code: A
Rating: Not Rated
Duration: 95 Minutes
Audio: English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphoc Widescreen (1.78:1) 1080p
Cast: Bret Harrison, Laura Prepon, Ashley Laurence, Kevin Gage, Hal Sparks Director: Robert Hall
Synopsis: Bret Harrison (Grounded for Life) stars as a frustrated teen who dreams of escaping his miserable life in a small Alabama town for a special effects make-up job in Hollywood, creating grisly monsters. His dream may even be in reach when he's hired to design the community's annual Halloween spook house and falls in love with a local girl (Laura PreponThat '70s Show). But there are real monsters in his way, including an abusive stepfather (Kevin GageHeat) who terrorizes his mother (Ashley LaurenceHellraiser), a fanatical religious group who attack his work, and his girlfriend's own shocking secret that may destroy their happiness together.

Like many I would imagine director Robert Hall came to my attention following the gore-tastic slasher LAID TO REST (2009) and it was based on that viscera strewn feature that I picked this up sight unseen. I was a bit surprised to discover the film was bittersweet coming of age story based in part of Hall's own life as an aspiring make-up effects artists in rural Alabama.

Green (Brett Harrison, TV's REAPER) is a young man obsessed with horror films and special effects make-up, he dreams of moving to LA to design effects for Hollywood films. Things are going pretty well for him when he secures a job designing the scares for the small town's annual haunted  Halloween attraction after scaring the shit outta the proprietor in a fantastic scene.  Things are looking pretty decent for Green but they get worse real quick when he develops a crush on the girl working at the local video store (Laura Prepon, TV's THAT 70'S SHOW) who just happens to be the daughter of a local religious nut with a few quirks of her own. 

Aggravating matters more is the fact that his mother (Ashley Laurence)  is dating an obnoxious and violent drunk named Earl  (Kevin Gage) which makes for an unstable and unpleasant home life. The film is surprisingly poignant and touching, it's a dark coming of age story peppered with some very nice moments of humor, particularly any scene with his horny cousin Billy who really wants to fuck his kin, "fist cousin, and cutest one I got", there's no shortage of interesting peripheral characters here but the focus of the film is on Green, his other and younger brother, mom's asshole boyfriends and video clerk girlfriend and her Jesus loving mama. Also making memorable appearances are Hal Sparks (QUEER AS FOLK) as a deputy who moonlight's as an variety show host and Josh Todd of rockers Buckcherry as Earl's cousin who figures prominently into he film's dark finale.

A great cast, everyone here is firing on all cylinders and the acting while poignant isn't schmaltzy in an egregious way, it's very natural the way it just rolls along. Green rand Prepon were particularly good, as was Gage as the violent redneck Ear, just a great cast all around. 

Blu-ray: The film is presented in it's original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen, it's a good looking image though there's no denying it was shot on the cheap and in enhanced by some very nice cinematography - for a low budget indie it's quite good looking which should not come as a surprise - there's quite a few great looking cheapies out there. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sounds pretty good, too. It's not great, but it's lossless and there some use of the surrounds but it's not ear shattering awesome if you know what I mean. There are no subtitle options. 
Aside from the never before available extended cut version of the film which runs about 15 minutes longer than the theatrical version there is quite a wealth of bonus features including two behind the-scenes featurettes running almost 46 minutes combines featuring cast and crew interviews with Laura Prepon, Michael Hall, Kevin Gage, Ashley Laurence, Darren Lynn Bousman, Hal Sparks, Brett Harrison and Shannon Eubanks - very cool watches, peppered with clips from the film and appreciations by various people. There's also about 20 minutes of comedic deleted scenes, some goofy outtakes, a video for Kevin Kinney's "Sun Tangled Angel Revival", a theatrical Trailer, a new Blu-ray Trailer and a photo gallery. 
Special Features:
- Never-Before-Released Extended Cut (Additional 15 Mins)
- Lucifern: The Making of Lightning Bug 

- Afterglow: A Look Back at Lightning Bug (24:47) 
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Michael Hall
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Robert Hall, Producer Lisa Waugh and Actors Ashley Laurence and Laura Prepon
- Deleted Scene with Optional Commentary (19:07)

- Outtakes (4:31)
- Theatrical Trailer (1:11)

- Blu-ray Trailer (2:36)- Kevin Kinney Music Video (3:50)
- Photo Gallery

Verdict: It was quite interesting to see another side to writer/director Robert Hall who's slasher film LAID TO REST was maxed with grue but short on character development - this is a pretty rich personal story and it makes for some good dramatic storytelling  a recommend if that's your thing, don't be afraid to dig into this one, it's touching without dragging the depths of a Lifetime Channel melodrama, and you horror fiends out there might be surprised by how easily your sucked right into it. 3.5 Outta 5