Some films come out of nowhere, knock you for six and leave you dazed and elated and wondering where the hell that came from. White Lightnin’ is one such film.
It starts as a biopic based on the life of 1970s Appalachian mountain dancer Jesco White, and then mutates into an utterly demented revenge chiller. The first half plays as a black comedy a la the Coen brothers at their most cartoonish and introduces Jesco, a wayward soul from a dirt-poor family who got into drugs and reform school as a kid and was saved when his famous hoofer father D Ray taught him how to dance. When D Ray is brutally murdered by a pair of drunk hillbillies, however, Jesco goes right off the rails and the film turns into a scuzzy seventies-style horror flick, abandoning fact for fiction and following its crazed protagonist on his grisly revenge trip.
Somewhere in the middle of this Carrie Fisher turns up as Jesco’s white trash lover, which imbues the film with a wholly unexpected romantic tenderness (and one pricelessly funny scene involving fellatio and red hot chillies). Jesco is played with terrifying conviction by newcomer Edward Hogg, who may already have turned in the performance of a lifetime, and the inspired lunacy is directed by Dominic Murphy, a fellow Englishman here making his astounding debut. All that and it’s got a superb soundtrack featuring rockabilly legend Hasil Adkins.
(18) 92min. Selected release from Fri 25 Sep.