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Featured DVD Review: Burning Bright

August 13th, 2010

Burning Bright - Buy from Amazon

See if you can figure out what type of movie Burning Bright is, based on the first two sentences of the description on the back of the DVD case. Kelly feels her life is unraveling. Her mother’s death has left her as the guardian of her autistic 12-year-old brother, Tom... Okay, so far is sounds like a family drama. and she’s just learned her stepfather pilfered her college fund... A dysfunctional family drama. to buy a tiger for his safari park. Wait. What? That sentence took such a sharp turn that it could cause whiplash.

The Movie

The film actually starts with Howie waiting on the side of a road for Johnny Gavineau. Johnny is buying a retired circus tiger from Howie, which will be the star attraction of his new safari. (On a side note, that seems like a really bad idea. Even under the best of circumstances, this seems like a plan that is destined to fail.) This plan gets even more unlikely to succeed when Johnny tries to renegotiate the price, claiming that the tiger is too docile to be an attraction; he wants something scary to bring in the tourists. (Seriously. Dumbest plan ever.) Howie convinces him this is the right tiger for him with a gruesome story regarding the reason the tiger was retired in the first place. And we quickly learn that he wasn't just bluffing to keep the price high.

Meanwhile, Kelly is trying to get her 12-year old brother into a special school that takes in autistic kids. This way, she won't have to take care of him constantly and she will be able to go off to college. However, the money she had set aside to pay for this special school is the same money her stepfather had just used to buy his killer tiger. So they are forced to return home. They arrive home just after Johnny has gotten the tiger put away, but before the ranch hand has finished boarding up the house in preparation for the hurricane that is about to make landfall. ... Did I mention how stupid this plan was? Why buy a tiger just before a hurricane is about to hit? Why not wait a few days to see if you still have a ranch or just have a bunch of kindling?

Anyhoo. Kelly rightfully chews out Johnny for being possibly the dumbest person in the world, and a thief to boot. Later that night, after the house has been completely secured and Kelly and Tom are asleep, someone lets the tiger into the house. Now Kelly has to figure out a way to save herself and her brother from a tiger that hasn't eaten in two week. According to Howie, this is how you teach a tiger who's boss, by starving it for two weeks. Do you know how a tiger teaches you who's boss? By giving you a personal tour of its digestive track.

The number of times I did a facepalm while watching this film was quite high, as you can probably tell from the tone of my plot synopsis. Nonetheless, this film is surprisingly effective as a thriller. One of the main reasons for this is Briana Evigan who is excellent in her role. While I didn't recognize the name, I recognized the face. Looking up her filmography, I realized I had reviewed her in S. Darko and Fear Itself. In fact, she was in arguably the best episode of that short run series, New Year's Day. And she's great here in both really communicating the tension, as well as the few actions scenes.

The action scenes are also very well done relying on physical effects over CG effects, i.e., they used a real tiger. The tiger doesn't appear on screen very often, but this works to the films advantage, as it makes the scenes where the action does happen all the more jarring. It allows the tension to build sufficiently before each big release. There isn't a lot of gore, and no CG enhancement of said gore, so if you are looking for a Tiger Teenage Slasher, look elsewhere. On the other hand, if you are looking for a tense thriller, don't let the strange setup throw you off. This film is certainly worth checking out.

The Extras

The DVD cover says there are two extras, an intro by Briana Evigan and a making of featurette. The intro is in fact a reading of the "The Tyger", a poem by William Blake, which starts with the line, "Tyger, Tyger Burning Bright". This is obviously where the movie gets its name, but it is not really an intro. The other special feature is a 10-minute long making of featurette. This consists of a mix of talking heads, behind-the-scenes footage and clips from the movie. On a side note, I like the term, "Sudden Loss of Tiger Control." Personally I would go with SLTC, which is a good acronym. It's sounds serious, but professional. Overall, this is not a lot of extras, but both are worth checking out, and compared to a lot direct-to-DVD releases, it's not bad.

The Verdict

I wasn't expecting a lot from Burning Bright, as the plot description on the DVD makes the movie sound really, well, dumb. However, I was pleasantly surprised with how effective it was as a thriller and while the DVD is quite light in terms of extras, it is still worth checking out. Call it a solid rental, perhaps a purchase.

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