Burning Bright review

A thriller about a family trapped in a house with a hungry tiger may sound like a recipe for disaster, but Duncan finds much to enjoy in Carlos Brooks’ Burning Bright…

Tiger, tiger, burning bright      In the forests of the night,      What immortal hand or eye      Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”      – William Blake     

I have been asked many times over the years, “Will you never learn?” I’m guessing it’s more of a rhetorical question, mostly based on it being said by the same people, over a large quantity of years. The simple answer is: no.

Now you’re probably wondering what the relevance is, so I’ll tell you. An email came through from Geek Towers, asking if I’d be interested in watching Burning Bright, so the first thing I did was look at the slightly simple, yet alluring poster and assumed it was horror. I took the obvious next step and IMDb’d it, only to discover it was a ‘tiger on the loose, in a house, with Meat Loaf’ movie, and based on that information, and that information alone, I leapt at the chance.

As has happened so many times in my life, it was only afterwards that I realised what I’d volunteered to do and that was to watch a ‘tiger on the loose, in a house, with Meat Loaf’ movie. This would involve travelling into London after work, pushing my way through the sweaty, commuting throng, missing dinner, getting back late and then spending however many hours writing the review.

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Suddenly, it didn’t seem like such a good idea.

And the result? Good, I’m glad to say. I thought the film was incredibly entertaining and thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish. I’ve since had time to reflect on Burning Bright, as the screening took place some weeks ago, and have developed a real affinity for it, mostly based on the insane concept, the slick execution and the shockingly good performances.

As with most things, it won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it really is difficult to conceive of how anyone could have made the film any better.

Apparently, a real tiger was used throughout, but without the actors present, then the two shoots were composited together, in a fairly seamless fashion (give or take the odd moment) to get the desired effect.

If you’ve ever had the privilege of being close to a real tiger, you’ll appreciate the sheer bulk and size of them. I saw one only a few years ago and remember its paw being bigger than my head. So, they make for a fairly fearsome foe. (I’m suddenly reminded of the film Roar, which I haven’t seen since the cinema back in the 80s, I don’t think. Must have a look into revisiting that. Anyway, I digress.)

Like any concept movie, it takes a certain amount of skill to work around such limited space, but the film works so much better than, certainly I, expected, by being so well thought out and executed. I’m always curious when watching films set on planes, to see how they get around such a limited area for the duration of the runtime, especially when the results can be so varied, with Executive Decision being a good example and the woeful Plane Dead, aka Flight Of The Living Dead, akaShit’ being the opposite (don’t even watch it for a laugh, as the filmmakers choose to get negate the premise by seemingly having a cavern in the plane’s underbelly).

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It would appear that director Carlos Brooks also carefully studied Jaws, as well as some of Spielberg’s other finer moments, to put his film together, very much employing a tiger point-of-view camera at the start, then giving glimpses of it, before full exposure. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not in a comparable league, but if you’re going to utilize another director’s tricks, you might as well crib from the best.

Some moments were fantastic and incredibly tense, the high point being when poor Briana Evigan (the girl who’s trapped in said house with her younger autistic brother in tow) trying to climb up a laundry chute, as the tiger circles below unaware, until her body temperature threatens to give her position away.

The film is full of jumps, as young Ms Evigan spends a large amount of time tentatively poking her head around doors, while the tiger is on the prowl for a scantily clad, nubile treat, but to her credit she proves herself to be much more than that.

I have to say that I was quite amazed by her performance, especially when she has to carry the weight of the film on her shoulders, and I confess that, having not seen her in anything else, I chose to judge her book by the very pretty cover. It’s a shame the film won’t get too much exposure, as I really think she deserves a bright career (no pun intended) in the future, especially when the likes of Megan Fox seems to get big film roles.

The supporting cast are all solid, with young Charlie Tahan (of I Am Legend fame) proving equally impressive, giving the kind of unnervingly real performance that Miko Hughes gave in Mercury Rising some twelve years ago now, and it’s the relationship between Tahan and Evigan that adds a different dimension to the film.

Also making a welcome appearance is Garret Dillahunt, whom I’m just becoming a fan of through his work in the excellent Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. (I’m ashamed to say that I still haven’t got round to watching No Country For Old Men.) He only has a small role here, but makes the most of being a shifty stepfather.

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The film clocks in at a modest one hour and ten minutes, excluding the extremely long (used to bulk out the official length, no doubt) and strangely detrimental end credits, which involve shots from the film, shown in an almost montage-like fashion, which, out of context, seem a bit ludicrous. They also sport a tiger awareness message after an entire film spent hoping that Ms Evigan will shoot it, but I guess most people don’t study end credits like I do.

Rating the film is tricky. It’s obviously no masterpiece, but the strong cast and some genuine scares make for a thoroughly entertaining movie. Briana Evigan is outstanding (though whether that gets me to watch Step Up 2: The Streets remains to be seen), it was well intentioned, has a hurricane in it and, of course, the cameo from Meat Loaf at the start, who perfectly sets the tone with his over the top ‘this tiger is evil’ speech.

For some it will be a single gold star movie, for most a three star movie, but for me? Four stars. Though I still think my improvised title of ‘Tiger Nom’ (scribbled in my notes from one moment in the film) would’ve garnered a greater audience.

Burning Bright debuts on the Discovery Screen at Frightfest 2010 on Friday and Saturday and is released on DVD through Momentum Pictures on September 6th.


4 out of 5