Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Burning Bright

To paraphrase an old cliché from Saturday morning cartoons, the premise of the 2010 direct-to-DVD BURNING BRIGHT is crazy, but it just might work.

What’s surprising is to find television villain du jour Garret Dillahunt (DEADWOOD, TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES, BURN NOTICE, LIFE, and now a regular on the sitcom RAISING HOPE) popping up in a starring role. One would think he wouldn’t have time to act in DTV killer-tiger flicks when there’s always a CSI guest shot over the horizon, but I like to think he was just tickled enough by the plot to get involved.

College freshman Kelly (SORORITY ROW Final Girl Briana Evigan) and her autistic little brother Tom (Charlie Tahan) are trapped with a man-eating Bengal tiger inside a big ranch house during a hurricane. With all the doors and windows boarded up and internet and phones out, the enterprising Kelly, thankfully clad in just a flimsy tank top and tiny shorts—what better to hunt wildlife in?—has to use some real smarts to get outta this trap.

Oh, and it’s all because Kelly and Tom’s idiot stepfather (Dillahunt) stole Tom’s special-school money to buy a tiger for his safari ranch that you just know would never get off the ground.

The story is silly, but this isn’t one of those campy SyFy Channel fear flicks. Brooks and the screenplay by Christine Coyle Johnson and Julie Prendiville Roux play it straight, making Kelly a dependable heroine and the hungry cat a more-than-formidable adversary. The director claims only real tigers were used—no CGI—but Evigan, whose dad Greg Evigan played buddy to a chimp for three seasons on BJ AND THE BEAR, certainly never saw a tiger on set. Putting Evigan and a real tiger together in at least one shot would have given the cat-and-kids game some extra bite. Filmed in Florida, BURNING BRIGHT is an admirable sleeper that overcomes its schlocky concept.

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