Movie Review: Burning Bright (2010)

Burning Bright (2010)
Director: Carlos Brooks
Rated: PG13

I dug up this film while going through Garret Dillahunt’s IMDb page—trying to find at least one movie he’d been in where he wasn’t a bad guy. The man is typecast, I swear. I found this recent (sort of) title and, having never heard of it (despite its original premise), decided to check it out.

It’s about a young woman and her autistic brother trapped in a boarded-up house with a Bengal tiger during a hurricane.

Trust me, it’s actually pretty good.

The film opens with a cameo by Meat Loaf. He’s not in the credits, but it’s kind of hard to miss the guy when you’re from my generation. Dillahunt’s character, Johnny, is trying to buy a Bengal tiger for his safari venture and Meat Loaf is warning the man about the danger of the specific tiger he’s got in the cage. It’s attacked people before.

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There are two things going on here. Johnny has spent, like, all of the family’s money (he’s the stepfather—the mother committed suicide) on this safari thing and has basically wasted it all. Our protagonist, Kelly (Briana Evigan), needs to send her brother to a hospital for his special needs, however, and they can’t afford it. She has a scholarship for college, but must start within the next semester because she has cited family issues to defer twice beforehand. Which means she is putting off college to take care of her little brother. She confronts her stepfather and they argue.

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The second plot point is the coming hurricane. The house is boarded up tight and Kelly falls asleep. She wakes during the storm, finds a note from Johnny saying that he went to the store, and then sees a huge Bengal tiger cross the hallway. Did I mention that he’s been starved for a while now?

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She can’t leave the house because it’s all boarded up from outside. She can’t get through to emergency services on her cell phone because the call volume is so high during the hurricane. Spoiler, Johnny is the one who let the tiger loose in the house. He has hunkered down in a bar for the duration of the storm—possibly with the intention of collecting the insurance money in the event of the kids’ deaths.

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Pictured: an utter douchebag

And he would have gotten away with it had Kelly been less resourceful. There is a brilliantly filmed moment where she’s hiding from the tiger in the laundry chute—her bare feet sliding and gripping the metal as the animal prowls below, peeking up the laundry chute when he hears her.

It’s not a masterpiece of a movie. It drags here and there and the plot is a little questionable (did Meat Loaf just advertise “man-eating tiger” on CraigsList or something?). But it is a bit of a unique twist on the old “killer in the house” trope. Because of the hurricane, Kelly can’t simply grab her brother and run outside. She can’t get through to the authorities because emergency services is too clogged up. Dialogue kind of suffers, though, in place of these riveting moments with the tiger. The tiger, himself, is cleverly filmed. This is not a computer generated animal. This tiger is real and very menacing. Remember the scene with the tiger in Gladiator and how that was so cool? Okay, maybe not, but my point is that the filming technique in Burning Bright is something worth seeing.

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Now, is this movie worth buying? Well, the DVD comes with special features, so it is. In my mind, a DVD has infinite re-watchability if it includes something like a behind the scenes documentary or a commentary track. So, check it out. The set-pieces with the tiger alone are very much worth seeing. And it’s a clever take on the “killer in my house” trope since Kelly can’t leave due to the hurricane. Even if she managed to get outside the house, where the hell is she going to go to get out of the storm?

Nowhere, that’s where.

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