Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Here’s a concept for movie. Take a young woman who has about a total of 2% body fat (Briana Evigan), has sleepwear that is so snug that there is no way that it could possibly be comfortable, and she also has the propensity to glisten. Seriously, the title of this movie ‘Burning Bright’ might’ve been a reference to Briana Evigan’s super golden constantly glistening skin. Then have this young woman trapped in a boarded up house in the middle of a hurricane with her problematic autistic brother (Charlie Tahan). Oh yeah, there’s a half ton Bengal Tiger in the house who hasn’t eaten in two weeks. If I were in charge of some movie studio and this pitch slid across my table I would’ve read it, put it down, rubbed my chin and said ‘You know, this is so nutty that it just might work’. And I would’ve been right again. Somebody somewhere needs to give me a high paying job running a movie studio. Emphasis on ‘high paying’.

Kelly (Evigan) is ready to start her life. She has a scholarship to the local U but before she begins this life she has to place her autistic brother Tom (Tahan), who she has been caring for since their mother took her own life, in a care facility. Damn if Kelly’s step father Johnny (Garret Dillahunt) didn’t just take Tom’s care facility money to buy a tiger for his proposed wild animal park. Yep… a tiger. That freaking guy.

Obviously this doesn’t make Kelly happy who runs home to let Johnny know how unhappy this situation has made her, Johnny informs Kelly that the money belonged to his wife so it really kind of belonged to him. Besides, Johnny says he’ll watch the boy while she’s off at college. Spending time with Tom and Johnny we all know that’s a situation that is not going to work out.

Now Kelly is really miserable. She’s already postponed this scholarship of hers a couple of times so it’s about to get taken away, Tom is steadily having his tantrums, this is Louisiana and the latest hurricane is seconds away and Kelly is having nightmares in which she is simplifying her life by putting her special needs baby brother in the dirt.

Kelly needs a drink of water. Kelly goes downstairs and drinks this water. Kelly goes back upstairs to check on this brother she dreamed about killing. Kelly sees a tiger walking around downstairs. This tiger eventually sees Kelly walking around upstairs and Kelly is looking mighty tasty in her super tight P.J’s and in possession of glistening skin. It is on.

Escape through a window? Boarded up. Phone service? Storm has knocked it out. Cell phone? In the basement. Maybe we can keep real quiet? Autistic brother isn’t having any of that. Maybe we can hide behind a locked door? We did mention that this tiger hasn’t eaten in a couple of weeks so a few inches of particle board isn’t going to keep homeboy from some fresh meat.

Waitaminute! Why is there a tiger walking around in a boarded up house in the first place? Where is Johnny? Hmmm…. Regardless it’s not looking good for Kelly who is starting to perspire a little which is causing her to glisten even more, and her brother is completely oblivious to the hungry beast wandering their halls, knocking down doors and clawing at his hot sister. Good luck with that one.

Folks, there were times while watching this movie ‘Burning Bright’ where it was absolutely terrifying. When the whole ‘tiger in the house’ thing was just starting it was at times so tense that it was almost unwatchable. Heck, even before the tiger got let loose in the house and the scurrilous Johnny was buying the tiger from the reticent tiger broker played by Meatloaf, the movie has this overriding sense of doom and had the constant feel of something really bad was about to happen. It is testament to the skill of director Carlos Brooks that he was able to make a thriller about a tiger running around in house so gosh darned effective. Go figure.

Briana Evigan was very good as the young lady dealing with a tiger in her house, she handled this bad situation in a believable way, the methods by which she avoided this hungry tigers wrath were executed well and the character was resourceful without ever becoming a superwoman. I probably would’ve had the young woman wear a few more clothes and glisten less because the truth of the matter is that she was kind of distracting in that get up. Here she is hiding out in a laundry chute from a crazed evil cell phone smashing tiger and I’m thinking ‘man… Briana sure is fit. I wonder does use that Shake Weight? Those are really nice… Oh! There goes that tiger again!’ It also helps this movie that used real live tigers. After watching the absolutely awful ‘Lake Placid 3’, part of the reason that movie was so awful was they used crocs which were clearly CGI. Now if you have a lot of money you can hire ILM or somebody and they can make that look believable. Not that movie. Assuming that there wasn’t a lot of loot to work with, using real tigers did the trick. The director had a juggling act to execute because we know that the tiger and our actors weren’t always in the same scene at the same time, no matter what our brain was telling us we were seeing, but it was largely pulled off.

My only issue with this movie is why the tiger was in the house in the first place. This is a SPOILER but if Johnny wanted to kill Kelly and Tom for insurance money, I’m thinking he’s going to have a hard time explaining to a lot of people why a tiger was boarded up in the house with his step children. An insurance company is going to have a hard time paying out that claim.

Regardless, ‘Burning Bright’ was a surprisingly tense thriller that actually has thrills. Who would’ve expected that?

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