Kelly’s stepfather Johnny (Garret Dillahunt) has bought the tiger, using the money set aside for Kelly’s autistic brother’s special schooling, as he is planning to open a safari park at his house. This part of the film is a little far fetched and, as it is probably immediately obvious, this and a few other plot points are a little contrived which makes the plot a little hard to swallow. It is a testament to the filmmaking on display though that the film is gripping and enthralling despite this. Amusingly the seller of tiger is played by Meat Loaf in a small role that I’m sure helped out with the financing but he is also quite entertaining.
Following a series of scenes that effectively set up the characters of Kelly and her brother Tommy (Charlie Tahan) and the dynamic between the two, the thriller part of the film gets underway with the house boarded up to protect against an impending hurricane and the tiger released into the house with Kelly and Tommy trapped inside.
The remainder of the film is a cat and mouse game (pun somewhat intended) with the tiger stalking Kelly and Tommy through the house as Kelly tries to get them both out. These scenes are absolutely thrilling and the director Carlos Brooks orchestrates the tension beautifully with intense scenes that will have you holding your breath, gripped by the suspenseful action. The character development in the first few scenes also helps build an investment in these characters and the tension in these scenes is heightened because of it. Briana Evigan is excellent as Kelly and her character has enough ingenuity to avoid any horror cliches that would have you screaming at the screen. There is one particular moment though where her actions do seem to be illogical but her reasoning is emotional and entirely earnt by the aforementioned character development.
Despite a couple of special effects shots that look a little unrealistic the composite shots of the tiger and the actors together are fantastic and the threat feels real and realistic. Brooks’ direction and Miklos Wright’s editing set the mood incredibly effectively and the claustrophia and oppressive set add to the suspense filled mood.
Burning Bright, despite a couple of plot contrivances, is a really great thriller. At just 80 minutes Burning Bright is taut, gripping and intense and everything a high concept thriller like this should be.
Burning Bright is playing on the Discovery screen as part of FrightFest 2010 and is released on DVD in the UK on the 6th of September. You can watch the UK trailer embedded below.