US (dir. Carlos Brooks)
Cast: Charlie Tahan, Briana Evigan, Garret Dillahunt
Synopsis: A thriller centered on a young woman and her autistic little brother who are trapped in a house with a ravenous tiger during a hurricane.
Review: When I first heard of “Burning Bright”, I was all like, “wow, really? There’s a fucking tiger trapped in a house with two kids?”. The whole concept of being stuck in a house with a ravenous tiger during a hurricane just seemed so nightmarish, so fantastical, so damn out there.. I just knew I had to see a movie with such a “say whaaaaat?” premise. The film could truly have gone either of two ways: it could have been a tense cat and mouse thriller, or it could have turned out to be just one long hide and seek game with a big kitty cat. I’m happy to report that “Burning Bright” turned out to have more nail-biting, cat and mouse mayhem than just 90 minutes of hide and seek playtime with an ill-tempered tiger.
Ever read that short story “Here There Be Tygers” by Stephen King? No? Well, the gist of it is that a little boy sees a tiger in the bathroom of his school. Too scared to pee, too freaked out to really say anything about it to his teacher, he ignores the big cat until neither the reader or the little boy can come to the conclusion of whether the tiger is really there or not… but then the tiger starts eating people and it becomes pretty clear that, yes, there’s a fucking tiger in the little boys’ room. I sorta wished “Burning Bright” had gone the route of “is there even a tiger in the house at all?” because, man, that would have been one fucking twisted psychological horror trip.
The very simple plot of “Burning Bright” goes a little something like this, jack-ass step-father spends his step-children’s money on a huge ass tiger he buys out of the back of Meat Loaf’s (yes, friggin Meat Loaf’s), truck. Step-daughter is pissed because that money was supposed to be used for her autistic brother’s care while she goes to college, so to shut her up and get rid of the somewhat, nay, REALLY annoying autistic step-son, step-asshole-father “accidentally” (big quotes on that one) releases the pissed off tiger into the house while the kids are asleep. Oh, and did I mention he boards up the house with the kids and the tiger inside because there’s a hurricane outside? Well he does! Oh, and did I mention that the the tiger hasn’t eaten in two weeks and is apparently super pissed off all the time? Well it is! So yeah, there’s the relatively simple set-up.
Though the first act of the movie is peppered with oodles of valuable information that will, of course factor, into the movie later on, the film gets off to a relatively cliche-free start. On a side note, someone, somewhere must be giving out an award for best supporting actor in a tiger salesman role, and I think Meat Loaf is the clear forerunner in that category. His story about how his eeeevil tiger killed a horse just because it was “the prettiest” is a pretty good introduction to our big, striped kitty foe. Cat out of hell, anyone?
There are even a few plot points brought up in the beginning that actually pan out into something more complex as the film progresses (i.e. the mother’s “suicide”), so despite the fairly obvious inference that yes, the tiger’s release in the house is NOT accidental you get another curve ball thrown at you in the end, one that you may or may not see coming.
If you’ve seen as many horror movies as I have, you almost start groaning when a character whips out their cellphone only to hear: *doo doo doooo* “We’re sorry, there is no phone signal at this time. It appears you are trying to use a cellphone in a horror movie. Please hang up, and don’t bother trying to call again.” *doo doo doooo*. Happily, “Burning Bright” is one of the first horror films I’ve seen in a loooong time that doesn’t suffer from the mind-numbingly overused cliche of “OH SHIT! WE CAN’T USE OUR PHONES!”. Instead, we get a fairly innovative reason as to why our heroine can’t use her cellphone to call for help; she simply dropped it into the laundry chute. Unfortunately, once she does retrieve her cellphone, she calls 911 only to get the ubiquitous horror movie “you’re fucked” recorded voice which reminds you that outgoing phone calls in a horror movie are not even worth attempting. Ah well. Oh, and since I’m on the subject of laundry chutes, let me just mention that “Burning Bright” boasts what is probably the most tense laundry room chase scene I’ve ever seen. It is an absolute sweat-drenched, nail-biter.
And let me just take a moment to remind you that, yeah, there is a real fucking tiger trapped in this house. If there was CGI in there somewhere, I sure as hell didn’t catch it. They totally had me convinced that there actually was an 800 pound, cranky Bengal tiger tearing up this suburban home.
And I’m not kidding about the tearing up part! Either the home was made out of cardboard (which is likely, considering as though the events of the movie would appear to be taking place in Florida) or the tiger somehow managed to master the fine art of breaking through doors and walls. Could a laser pointer have helped distract the ill-tempered pussycat? Perhaps…
Anywho, nothing really specifically fantastic takes place after the laundry chute scene. It is pretty much one long, albeit tense, cat and mouse chase, ending in what is likely the most obvious way possible: (SPOILER ALERT) the stepfather gets turned into Purina. Predictable ending? Yes… but all the build up to the big chow-down is at least highly suspense-laden.