LIGHTNING: FIRE FROM THE SKY
Rated: Not Rated (TV Movie)
Copyright Company and Date: 2001, Porchlight Entertainment
Submitted by ulthar
Eric - Jesse Eisenberg! High School Freshman who knows how to look at Doppler Radar images online, even though nobody else can.
Tom - John Schneider! Eric's cold, hard father. He's the COUNTY Sheriff (that fears the TOWN mayor can fire him) with a heart of gold
Luke - Gary Sandy! Local hardware store owner that is mighty PO'd that Walmart, er, Fed Mart is coming to town.
Bart Poindexter - Stacy Keach! Construction manager in charge of getting the Walmart, I mean Fed Mart, built. Seems mighty worried about some concrete forms.
Mayor Scott - Barbara Crampton! Holy cow, this film has Barbara Crampton in it. Forget whatever other star power is here, this is now gold.
Chloe - Bart's daughter; falls pretty quickly for Eric despite his nerdy obsession with lightning.
Giles - Eric's high school mentor who really doesn't do anything of use at all. That's saying something considering he seemed to be trying to get his pregnant wife killed on the way to the hospital.
Barbara - Michelle Greene! Unbelievably underused acting talent portraying an ER doctor; aside from being the ONLY person in the ER able to recognize the signs of a lightning strike on a person, she does not really do much at all.
This made-for-TV film brings an incredible degree of star power to bear on a hopelessly ridiculous plotline and horrible dialog. Eric is a high school freshman that is insanely obsessed with lightning since a couple years prior he saw lightning strike a storage tank in town. This obsession means he knows all kinds of (mostly useless) statistics about lightning strikes and storm formation and yes, yes he DOES use this to impress the girls. Well girl, and she's new in town.
Meanwhile, the town's local business owners are angry due to the construction of Fed Mart.
Andy Travis Luke has parked his truck in the way of some construction workers and gets into a yelling/shoving match with Bart, so he gets arrested for trespassing. Sheriff Tom is not happy about arresting Luke, but he has to do his job. It seems that part of Luke's ire is due to a past promise the Mayor made to revitalize the downtown area which she went back on by allowing the Fed Mart to be built. For this, apparently, she is getting a Mayor of the Year Award.
With the main characterizations in place, it's time for Eric to notice two big storms on radar. No one else can SEE these storms, even though they are huge and converging toward each other to make a superstorm. Eric further notices a pattern: this happens every 100 years and is apparently due to the town being built on a large iron deposit. Armed with this convincing information, he convinces his high school teacher to contact a St. Louis meteorologist to 'sound the alarm.' St. Louis rejects the premise of a superstorm forming, even though in principle they have the same radar data available to them.
Hundreds of miles away, lightning strikes a line worker. Eric is notified of this and other strikes on his portable lightning detector. Chloe, the new girl in school, is oddly attracted to Eric and his obsession rather than thinking "Oh cripes...how did I get stuck with the creepiest, nerdiest kid in school to show me around on my first day?" Lightning then strikes the school and Eric saves Chloe even though the principal is hit. This has got to be the longest lightning event in recorded human history.
After the lightning strike on the school, the Mayor cancels school for the rest of the day and heads out to go to her award ceremony. Bart offers his crew a huge bonus to keep working despite the worsening weather and Tom and Luke continue to banter at the jail. The ER staff is stumped by the principal's problem, believing it only to be a heart attack. Eric continues to try to warn people of the impending disasterous storm developing, but alas, no one will listen. No one else can see this awesome megastorm that is now only hours away.
As the storm hits, lightning strikes the water tower and runs through a water pipe to Giles' house, where his pregnant wife is filling a jar with water. She turns the tap off just in time to stop the lightning from getting her, but then a moment later, turns it back on to get some more water out. She is shocked into labor and lies on the floor, unable even to answer the phone when Giles calls to check on her.
Lightning also strikes Chloe's house, demolishing her kitchen. That poor toaster! That poor microwave oven! After standing there watching the destruction, she descides she'd be safer with Eric and all his cool weather knowledge. So, she runs out INTO the storm and however far the school is so she can sit with him, in a raging superstorm, in a small mobile classroom that is called the "weather station."
Giles gets to his wife, but on the way to the hospital, a power line falls on their car. He warns her of the dangers of getting out, so they decide to just sit there and wait for help to arrive. The Mayor crashes her car and takes shelter in a culvert, and it is here we get to see Barbara Crampton earn her keep in this movie. She moans. She screams. She shows discomfort and terror. Scream Queen indeed. No disembodied head rape, though. This was made for TV.
Tom learns Giles and his wife are overdue (haha) at the hospital, so he goes to find them. He manages to rescue them from the down power lines...somehow miraculously NOT getting electrocuted himself or killing them in the process.
The hospital's generator funks out, so Tom goes to get the only other one in town: at the Fed Mart construction site. There, he hooks up with Bart (who has 'killed' several of his men by not letting them quit working in the storm) who decides to reach for a shot at redemption by helping. They meet up with Luke who happens to have in his hardware store the one part they need to connect Fed Mart's generator to the hospital's power system and TOGETHER! they save the day. Bart announces he's quitting his job building the Fed Mart and settling down in town. We never saw that coming from all the foreshadowing heaped at us!
The megastorm is mostly a rain event as we have not seen a real lightning strike in the third act. However, Eric surmises that the ONLY way end this storm (literally, he says it will go on forever unless something is done) is a big explosion. This ending has to be seen to be believed. I've seen a lot of disaster movies and I've seen a lot of ridiculous crap for ending the "killer storm," but this might just take the cake.
I've argued in the past that movie makers often have a problem with scale, and this displayed here. This storm is supposed to be this big, killer ginormous event, yet...well, you just have to watch it. I'm not spoiling your fun. Suffice it to say it is beyond stupid, beyond ridiculous, beyond cheesy and if you can't watch the end of this movie and laugh your knickers off, you have no place on badmovies.org.
Seriously, though, there are parts of this movie that are extremely well done. The director followed the maxim of Chekov's Gun here very well, introducing very little into the plot that was not important at some point later. The problem was the plot was just stupid. The very premise of these storms converging on one town every 100 years is kind of goofy, but making it where a high school kid is the only one that can see it breaks through "suspension of disbelief" and crashes into "What the?" territory. Director David Giancola seems to know how to stage a story; I'm not sure he knows how to write one.
Talking on the telephone is really dangerous.
High Schools have one hallway full of students and lockers, and another empty for the principal to run down
Lightning moves rather slowly through lockers and kitchens, allowing people time to move out of the way
Town mayors can threaten to fire elected County Sheriffs
High school freshmen know more about the weather than experienced meteorologists and teachers
Downed power lines are reallydangerous unless you stand in water and throw a tow strap over them
Lightning will wait around in a water pipe until someone opens the tap
Pregnant women lose the use of their legs when they go into labor, even between contractions