Ok, well maybe he can’t control actual lightning, but there’s a good chance he could make you believe that he could since he played Hercules on TV for about 7 seasons. I’ve been a fan of Kevin Sorbo ever since “Hercules”and the science-fiction show “Andromeda” were on the air, so I was looking forward to seeing him in the new SyFy movie entitled, “Lightning Strikes”. The movie trailers were a little “sketchy”, describing a “demon in the lightning” that was attacking people in a rural town where Kevin Sorbo plays the sheriff. I was interested to see if this far-fetched storyline could be kept in the “somewhat believable” realm with Kevin Sorbo at the reins.
Immediately in one of the opening scenes we are presented with a scene so unbelievable, that if it were done badly, would have definitely made me give up on the rest of the movie and change the channel. We see a mother and her son driving down a highway, eventually being “chased” by a bolt of the “super lightning”. They try to outrun it, but when they can’t (lightning is very fast you know), their car is cut cleanly in two as the monstrous bolt of lightning slices right through it. Being that this was a “b-movie” of sorts, this scene could have easily been extremely cheesy. But, instead of groaning at a lame attempt to make this scene appear believable, I was pleasantly surprised by my friend shouting, “Dude, that was awesome!”
In fact, I was pleasantly surprised throughout the movie in general. I felt the special effects surpassed my expectations for a typical movie on the Syfy channel. The lightning was fairly realistic, meaning it didn’t look like shots of lightning from another movie that were spliced in. The scenes where the actors interacted with the lightning weren’t horribly fake-looking either. The only complaint I would have is the appearance of the demon/alien inside the lightning. It looked more like an actor in an alien costume that filmed the scene alone in front of a blue screen and as a result, its movements didn’t exactly correlate with whatever it was supposed to be interacting with in the movie.
The acting was definitely “above par”. I was quickly reminded that no matter how bad or “cheesy” a movie is, an actor with veteran acting abilities, such as Kevin Sorbo, can automatically kick it up a notch. It was evident that Kevin was not simply reading his lines, as we see actors doing in a lot of SyFy b-movies. Instead he delivered his lines with a purpose, actually creating a Sheriff that the viewer can identify with and care about, no matter how unbelievable the situation and characters around him were.
Kevin did an excellent job of “grounding” the movie when he was in scenes with “over-the-top” characters, most notably, Todd Jensen as Mayor Fordice, who was portrayed as a highly annoying cross between Max Headroom and Matthew Lesko. I know this dude was meant to be annoying, but he was a one-dimensional caricature and extremely hard to take seriously. It was equally hard to believe that a guy wearing melon and salmon colored business clothes with bleached blonde hair, could ever be elected mayor in a small blue-collar town such as the one portrayed in the movie. The guy was more likely to get his butt kicked outside the bar at closing time and run out of town permanently.
The main storyline was simple and a bit dragged out, but overall, it kept my interest, which is not an easy thing to do over the course of 2 hours. The plot centered around the demon that lived in a very intense lightning storm, which actually contained an alternate plane of existence. People could only see and interact with the demon/alien if they were being struck by the lightning, and thus inside of it. The “lightning demon” had a knack for taking the lives of children, but letting their parents live, leaving the parents immune to further lightning strikes. This sets up the two characters that are out to seek revenge, the “preacher/adventurer/father” Donovan (David Schofield), and the mom that was driving the car in the beginning of the movie, Nancy (Annabel Wright), who awakens from a coma to find out that her son was killed after their car was split in two by the super bolt of lightning.
Thrown into the whole mix is a group of University “storm chasers”, a professor and 2 students, who serve as the scientific “foil” to Donovan’s proclamations of the mythological history of the “lightning demon”. I found the play of these opposing viewpoints very interesting and actually educational, as I learned some interesting true facts about lightning, as well as the mythological stories that illustrated how ancient cultures explained its existence. Other than that though, the “storm chasers” didn’t really have a pivotal role in the plot of the movie.
Overall, “Lightning Strikes” exceeded my expectations. It has pretty decent special effects and the quality of the movie was carried mostly by Kevin Sorbo’s acting talent. The storyline was simple and drawn out, but not overly predictable. It was cheesy, but not “groan-worthy”, so I’m giving it 4 cheese wedges for “high cheesiness” combined with “high quality”, which ends up equaling a pretty decent Syfy movie.