Burning Bright (2010)
Dir. Carlos Brooks
Written by David Higgins, Christine Coyle Johnson, Julie Prendiville Roux
Starring Briana Evigan, Charlie Tahan, Garrett Dillahunt, cameo by Meat Loaf
Let’s start with the official IMDB plot summary for this movie:
“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.”
Sit with that for a second. Sometimes you get an idea so perfect and elegant that you just have to sit back for a moment and let the greatness sink in. Really take your time with that. Luxuriate in it. I mean, how many more times in your life as you going to hear something so utterly delightful?
That’s usually as far as you can go, though, because it seems like you hardly ever see such a perfect concept actually faithfully put on the screen. Usually if it ends up on-screen at all, it’s muddied up with a lot of needless plot clutter or smirking postmodern jokiness. But not so here. BURNING BRIGHT, whatever its flaws may be, is 100% committed to its moronic vision. I mean let's be honest, this has to be one of the most sublimely idiotic premises for a movie I’ve ever heard, yet it’s presented here with an uncommonly dedicated focus, and with absolutely no irony whatsoever.
The result, far from being a hilarious trainwreck, turns out to be sort of OK, even mildly effective at times. They seem to mostly use a real tiger (three tiger actors, actually) which is obviously better than CG even if it’s clearly not in the same shot as the actors a lot of the time. The performances are all quite good, and even the dialogue is pretty acceptable for something this lowbrow. It’s a real movie in absolutely every way except that it’s about a hot girl in her underwear protecting her autistic brother from a rampaging tiger (which Meat Loaf had previously described as “pure evil”) while they’re trapped in a house during a hurricane. I mean, it’s DIE HARD meets CUJO with a RAIN MAN twist.
It’s ridiculous and gimmicky, but really the biggest problem is that it’s not quite ridiculous and gimmicky enough. Once you commit to the idea of a tiger stalking these kids, you might as well go whole hog and really think up some wacky shit for it to do. The movie has a little of that (the standout is a bravura sequence with our heroine trapped in a laundry shoot with the tiger below) but not quite enough to really be a wholly satisfying genre ride. Too much perfunctory stalking, not enough whammy to add up to a killer tiger DIE HARD ripoff as great as the world deserves. I want to see her throw a saddle on the thing and ride it to freedom. I want to see her entice a friendly wildebeest to join forces. I want to see the tiger cleverly disguise itself as a blanket-covered futon couch and then spring at its helpless prey when they collapse into it in exhaustion. I mean, let’s get a little more creative here people. We’ve already crossed the threshold of ridiculousness with this fundamental premise. Might as well have a little fun now that we’re here.
Anyway, this one should probably be either better or worse, but since this is what we got, well, at least it delivers what it promises at a basic level. One last thing of note: unlike INTERSTELLAR this one doesn’t need to read the titular William Blake poem The Tyger five whole times to you before they’re convinced you’ll get it. In fact, they somehow manage to resist reading it at all, so they correct that mistake on the special features. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Briana Evigan (STEP UP, STEP UP 2 DA STREETS, SORORITY ROW, various music videos including Linkin Park, Flo Rida, T-Pain and Enrique Iglesias) read Blake’s classic poetic meditation on aesthetic beauty contrasted with primal ferocity. I think this is quite frankly a marvelous idea, and I hope it catches on so much that every DTV horror cheapie feels compelled to include a special feature of their sexy 20-something star reading a classic English poem (not on camera, but with the words printed on a stately black background, presumably for poetry karaoke). You know, you could get David Boreanaz reading Rudyard Kipling’s immortal Gunga Din on the 20th-edition special release of THE CROW IV: WICKED PRAYER, or Tara Reid doing T.S. Elliot’s The Wasteland on the Criterion version of URBAN LEGEND. Paris Hilton reading Ode to A Grecian Urn on the 3D 2-disc version of HOUSE OF WAX REMAKE. And so on. If so, BURNING BRIGHT is going to end up being one of those movies you read about in film class* that we all have to pretend to like because it was the first. Until then, I guess we’ll have to content ourselves merely enjoying it for unapologetically being itself.
*I was trying to think of an example of this phenomenon, but I dunno, I think maybe I’ve just been drinking the Kool-Aide too long because I actually enjoy most of the movies I used to accuse of falling into this category. KING KONG, THE MUMMY, etc. Maybe BIRTH OF A NATION?
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