Directed by: Dominic Murphy | 84 minutes | drama | Actors: Edward Hogg, Stephanie Astalos-Jones, Kirk Bovill, Owen Campbell, Carrie Fisher, Stephen Lester, Wallace Merck, Damian Samuels, Clay Steakley, Allison Varnes, Raymond Waring, Muse Watson
“White Lightnin” is set in the white trash (under) class in rural West Virginia. This group often lives under poor conditions in the well-known trailer parks and is known for its rather fierce lifestyle and rough “manners”. It is a “spicy” film with sometimes strong images, but also with a lot of pitch-black and absurd humor that pokes fun at the situations in the story. Stereotypes are not avoided, this rural population is considered to be stupid and ugly and various characters have been made almost caricatures. However, it does set the mood. This is typically such a film that does find its way within the film festival world. You either love it or it hardly appeals to you, there is no middle way.
The film is inspired by a true story, but the person and events in the film are otherwise fictional. The film is told in the much used form of the flashback. Jesco is the son of a “mountain dancer” (a kind of tap dance). Jesco is difficult to educate, derails at a young age, sniffs gasoline and fuel for lighters. His father corrects him with a heavy hand and does not shy away from any harsh means. Jesco ends up in a strict educational institution, where he quickly learns to maintain himself. The basis for a more or less dramatic life has been laid. Later he ends up in labor camps and an institution for people with psychological problems. Despite these somewhat gloomy-sounding stories, it is precisely the jet-black humor that accompanies these events that is refreshing.
During his stay in the institution, his father is brutally murdered by – how could it be otherwise – more or less drunken villagers. Jesco (convincingly played by Edward Hogg) swears revenge, but at the same time meets a new love, a blonde flame, Cilla (a fine rendition of Carrie Fisher) who leaves her husband and children behind and travels with Jesco, who is now in his father’s footsteps. They lead a raw life full of booze and travel, but Cilla is homesick for her children. When Jesco (literally) goes crazy again, she abandons him. Jess spins out of control, goes off on a hunt for his father’s killers. The dramatic events then follow each other in quick succession. Hell and damnation, also in various striking thunder sermons, are inevitable.
The casting of the film is fine, the rural population is (sometimes even too) convincingly portrayed. The film is edited “quickly” with relatively short scene changes. The film is presented in beautiful pale and dull colors, with an accentuating color tone here and there, enhancing the atmosphere of the film. The soundtrack provides special support. A touch of horror, a lot of jet-black humor, atmospheric black-and-white images, raw people who stew a lot of booze and images of white trash in trailer parks make this a film that does not try to please, but that really is a film for the lover of the genre.