Burning Bright Review

First impressions are deceiving with this Carlos Brooks release entitled Burning Bright. It starts off cliché enough, with the stereotypical foreboding opening of 'unsuspecting character' whose pride leads to mortal danger. It seems as though this film is going to follow the tried and overdone formula of most horror/thriller B movies, with half-hearted characters and gratuitous gore to supplement bad writing and production, but 20 minutes in, it's evident this one's quite different.

Burning Bright centers around Kelly (Briana Evigan) and her 12 year old autistic brother Tom (Charlie Tahan), who are trapped in their home with a blood-thirsty tiger while a hurricane rages outdoors. Evigan does a great job as this sensitive but tough character, who is forced to battle her own mounting problems, in addition to the menacing tiger. If I only had one reason to recommend this film, it would simply be to just watch her. Staying true to the emotional baggage of her character, Evigan related through her performance the frustrations and fears of being virtually sole caretaker of a sibling with severe autism. In her introductory scenes, her zen-like calm seemed off-putting, but it proved to be her strongest weapon as the film progressed. Her ability to portray this calm without over-acting was a testament to her grasp of this role. In many ways, Evigan made this film a one-woman show.

More impressive however, was the other star, the formidable Bengal tiger. There was very little CGI in this film, which meant the authenticity of this villain burned brightly on film. Few directors have taken on the challenge of using villains from the animal kingdom, and those that have, usually approach it from a far-fetched, comical aspect (i.e. Jonathan King's Black Sheep). Brooks success is buried in the fact that not only was this scenario and character realistic, it also made it pretty scary. The believability keeps the viewer at his mercy and glued to the screen. It's a psychological game with great payoff.

One trend Burning Bright exemplifies, which should be embraced more in films, is the strength in brevity. At a neatly compact 86 minutes, very little had time to fall apart. Burning Bright is long enough to tell a great story but short enough to keep it fresh. Without knowing right away the details surrounding the tragic circumstances of Tom, Kelly, and their immediately unlikeable step-father Johnny (Garret Dillahunt), this film immerses you in their story, revealing each secret one-by-one. In truth, the character motivations are pretty predictable and there were a few plot holes that stood out. Nonetheless, upon the film's conclusion, it's evident every part counted...not to mention, an appearance from Meat Loaf rounded out the goodies nicely.

What was most likeable about Burning Bright was the efficient use of the family house as the main backdrop. Watching Tom and Kelly run throughout their home, constantly looking for safe haven intensified the suspense and created an air of claustrophobia for the viewer. There were no surprise basement dungeons, underground railroads, or any other wacky escapes usually derived from similar plots. Brooks skillfully managed to transform a home into a jail by simply keeping the space and the rooms limited, true to what most houses are. The house also magnified the duality of the hurricane and the tiger. While it plays an accomplice to the tiger, it's also a savior from the storm. This type of dual edged relationship is a mirror of the difficult relationship between the children and their step-father. It's a great touch of symbolism that is not lost in the film.

While this movie isn't perfect, the quality of production is clearly evident. It's pretty ironic that this is a straight to DVD production because many of its attributes are on par with or better than its more commercial counterparts. Decently written, well acted and executed, Burning Bright proves that there are some gems out there that don't make it to theaters or impressive packaging.

DVD Bonus Features

Burning Bright features an a reading of the poem “The Tyger” by actress Briana Evigan and a short special effects featurette, which highlights the lack of special effects featured in this film.

"Burning Bright" is on sale August 17, 2010 and is rated PG13. Drama, Horror, Thriller. Directed by Carlos Brooks. Written by Christine Coyle Johnson, Julie Prendville Roux, David W. Higgins. Starring Briana Evigan, Charlie Tahan, Garret Dillahunt.

Simone Grant


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