I was all set to purchase a Bengal tiger and now BURNING BRIGHT has turned me off of the idea completely. BRIANA EVIGAN (GREG EVIGAN’s daughter who you might remember from SORORITY ROW) portrays Kelly Taylor, a gal set to go off to college. Trouble is, her mother’s recent suicide and her stepfather’s general flakiness have left her feeling personally responsible for the well being of her autistic younger brother. Her sense of being trapped becomes all too literal when she wakes up in her home to find it boarded up in anticipation of a hurricane. I should also mention that somebody has also barricaded the front and back doors, and only after setting her stepfather’s recently acquired bloodthirsty tiger within the house. Not only does Kelly have to survive but she also must keep her sibling who doesn’t register the danger alive too. It’s safe to say that this is an unlikely situation but the matter of fact way it’s handled is convincing and the resulting intensity is impossible to deny. At one point I’m pretty sure I yelped.
I gotta say that although they don’t get as much attention as some other sub genres of horror, the good ol’ “man vs. fill in the blank beast” movie has been discreetly advancing in quality and effectiveness over recent years (BLACK WATER & THE REEF come to mind). BURNING BRIGHT is the latest example of such a film to wisely focus on and utilize the actual animal in question, producing an authentic primal response in the viewer. (It looks like some CGI is used in BB but only around the edges to position a genuine tiger in specific places). The tiger (or really tigers, as more than one is credited) in question is a magnificent natural effect and don’t be surprised if something way down in the pit of your DNA well flashes red when it’s on screen. The action is all the more impressive that the lion’s share (har) takes place in a limited space. Director CARLOS BROOKS even had me thinking back to HALLOWEEN with the way he transforms a recognizable everyday home into a cavernous battlefield and the last segment of TRILOGY OF TERROR with his dedication to relentlessness.
As tight as the director’s craftsmanship is, a movie this intimate and concentrated could easily collapse if occupied by a feeble cast. I was impressed by every one present. GARRET DILLAHUNT (LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT) is always interesting, EVIGAN could be the king of the scream queens if she had a mind to and CHARLIE TAHAN as Kelly’s autistic brother gives a temperate, modest spin on a role that many an actor (of any age) would have demolished with hammy ostentation. His approach fits right in with the film’s general manner of getting the job done succinctly and without tiresome ornamental bombast. Truth told, I did end up yearning for a little more fleshing out of Kelly’s relationship with her shady stepfather but the movie is so lean, compact and uncluttered maybe it’s best that boat wasn’t rocked. It’s probably better to be left hungry for a little more than overstuffed and I don’t mind filling in some of the blank spots myself. The bottom line is that this movie really worked for me as a precision suspense dispenser and I don’t need anything more than that.