Monday, August 30, 2010

Burning Bright (2010)

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

-from William Blake’s “The Tyger”

The above is an excerpt from one of my favorite poems of all time, so when I heard they were making a film called Burning Bright a few years ago, I was pretty stoked. As time passed and I learned more about the project, things got…interesting. For one, the synopsis had me a little worried; it was basically about a young girl and her younger brother trapped inside a house with a killer tiger during the middle of a hurricane. Pretty silly-sounding, no? Secondly, it never got a proper theatrical release and was unceremoniously dumped on DVD a few weeks back. Another bad sign. However, I decided to give it the old college try anyway. I love tigers, I love Blake’s poem, I love nature-run-amuck films…how bad could it be? Well, while it certainly wasn’t terrible, it also wasn’t grrrrrrreat!

Teenager Kelly (Briana Evigan) is looking forward to attending college and healing from her mother’s recent suicide, but before she goes she must check her autistic younger brother Tom (Charlie Tahan) into a special home where he will be taken care of while she is away at school. One problem…her irresponsible stepfather (Garret Dillahunt) has squandered her savings meant for Tom’s medical care on purchasing a tiger for his planned “Safari Farm”. Kelly is forced to return home with Tom as a hurricane bears down upon their home. The despicable stepfather has other plans on top of spending all her dough, though.  During the night, with the house safely boarded up against the hurricane, he releases the tiger into the house with Kelly and Tom fast asleep upstairs. When Kelly awakens, she finds herself and Tom trapped in the house with a hungry, hungry tiger that hasn’t eaten in two weeks.

Ok, so besides the ludicrous sounding synopsis I was nonetheless intrigued. I mean, at least it wasn’t another remake and was actually trying something new. So starting off I was pretty interested in the film and willing to give it a fair shot. Now, the film had plenty of positives going for it, but I found myself quibbling over  illogical plot points more often than I found myself actually enjoying the action on screen. First, though, let’s get into the positives…

For one, I thought the characters were very well-done. They are developed just enough so that you hate the skeezy stepfather and feel empathy for Kelly and understand her frustration with having to care for tantrum-throwing Tom (“no touch!!”), who is both a burden and a responsibility. The tiger even takes on a personality all its own…though I mostly sympathized with the tiger and thought it was only doing what came naturally since its a-hole of an “owner” didn’t feed it for two weeks.

Speaking of the tiger, yes, a real one (actually, three separate trained tigers) is used…no CGI tigers here. There are a few scenes where the tiger is super-imposed on the background that look fake, but looking fake is definitely better than having a real tiger get hurt crashing through a glass door.

Since this is more of a “cat and mouse” suspense film, there isn’t much blood and no gore, but this film doesn’t need it. Director Carlos Brooks does quite a good job creating tension without needing to use flashy effects or grue.

However, there were so many unbelievable events occurring that I found myself questioning the logic of the script too many times. Perhaps it was a matter of too many cooks in the kitchen, as there were three writers on the film, but the plot holes were annoying no matter what the reason! Now, I’ve seen a ton of positive reviews for Burning Bright, so maybe it’s just me or maybe I was missing something, I just know that I was rolling my eyes way too many times during the film. And it bugs me that I was annoyed so many times because most of the time it was small stuff…but nonetheless these small instances added up fast and affected my overall enjoyment of the film, so I felt they should be noted. For one, Kelly was wandering around the house before she became aware of the tiger. Seriously, if the tiger was hungry it totally could have nabbed her then. Plus, you think the tiger would have heard/smelled Kelly and Tom upstairs while they were sleeping and busted into their rooms then. Later on, Tom is caterwauling as they are trying to hide – why didn’t the tiger go after them then? He could obviously hear them! All the while this was occurring in the early morning hours back at the house, the stepfather was sitting at a bar drinking beer. I don’t know what state the film is set in, but do bars usually open that early? Gah, I’m annoyed that this film makes me seem like a major nitpicker, but seriously all these (and more) nagging questions kept irking me!

If you can ignore the small stuff, Burning Bright is a pretty competently done film. It never really scared me, but it had its tense moments (especially when Kelly is hiding in the laundry chute). While it definitely doesn’t burn as bright as I would have liked it to,  I still think it at least deserves a rental.

Available on Amazon!

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