Review 44: Burning Bright (1/5)

Burning Bright

Directed by Carlos Brooks

Starring Briana Evigan, Charlie Tahan, Garret Dillahunt

Released in 2010, but officially on May 2. 2012

Running time 1h 26m

Rated PG-13

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Tyger, Tyger, burning bright / In the forests of the night / What immortal hand or eye / Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies / Burnt the fire of thine eyes? / On what wings dare he aspire? / What the hand, dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, and what art / Could twist the sinews of thy heart / And when thy heart began to beat / What dread hand? And what dread feet?

What the hammer? What the chain / In the furnace was thy brain? / What the anvil? What dread grasp / Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears / And water’d heaven with their tears: / Did he smile his work to see / Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger, Tyger, burning bright / In the forests of the night / What immortal hand or eye / Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

To me, “The Tyger” by William Blake is unique in how it manages to make sense and simultaneously not. Burning Bright derives its name from the first line of the classic poem, as you probably guessed. Unfortunately, it does not, like the poem, simultaneously make sense and not make sense. It just doesn’t make sense. Well, some of it makes sense. But not enough.

Our story begins in an unspecified part of the eastern United States that is currently bracing itself for a Category 3 hurricane. That was a missed opportunity. You could have given us a Category 5, or, hell, a Category 6 hurricane hypercane. A courier meets up with John Gaveneau, who, for some reason, is creating a “Safari Ranch” at his home. He has been buying several African animals, like a bobcat and an orangutan, which, among the rest of the animals, are featured in a second-long shot and are never seen again. The only exception to this is the animal that the courier is currently delivering to him – a Bengal tiger. This is because John wants a “scary animal”. John, you really could have picked a better, more manageable “scary animal”. This tiger had been starved for two weeks out of a claim that that’s how you show the tiger who’s boss. And then the courier feeds John some gruesome cock-and-bull story about how the tiger was part of a circus, and that it attacked and brutally killed “the prettiest” circus horse. Oh, and it’s not nature that gives this tiger its ferocity. It’s because this tiger is EEEEEEEEEEEEEVIL. But John doesn’t care. He buys the tiger anyway, and takes it back to his house.

We are then introduced to John’s stepdaughter Kelly and her autistic brother Tom. Kelly has brought Tom to a special hospital so that he can get proper care while she’s away at college. What college is she going to? The college is never named, but considering that throughout the course of this movie, she consistently displays a severe lack of brainpower, I can only assume that she’s going to a cheapo community college that accepts anyone with a pulse. For example – NO. I have dear, beloved friends that go to or have gone to that college. I am not about to insult them. Anyway (I say that a lot), Kelly’s check for Tom’s care has bounced, and when she phones the bank, she is informed that her account has been closed, and that all money has been withdrawn from it by John to – GUESS WHAT? – buy the tiger! They REALLY want us to hate John, don’t they?

John has a group of illegal immigrants (insert anti-illegal-immigration political statement here supporting Donald Trump) board up his, Kelly’s, and Tom’s house against the impending hurricane. Kelly and Tom arrive at home, and Kelly confronts John about her missing funds. John reveals that he, of course, spent it all on the damn tiger. Kelly is obviously pissed the hell off and says that when her mother died (suicide in the same M.O. as Marilyn Monroe), she wanted her money to go to Tom and Kelly. Unfortunately, the mother left no official will, so John took the money for himself to start his “Safari Ranch”. Again, this movie is trying WAY TOO HARD to get us to hate John. I’m sure that this movie won’t be trying harder in later scenes, like adding an amazingly stupid and overblown plot twist toward the end.

Anyway, Kelly calls her college professor, who’s acting way too kind for a college professor, and asks him to defer her start at college another semester, citing family issues. Unfortunately, she has already deferred twice, and her scholarship money cannot be delayed further.

Kelly sends Tom to bed, goes to bed herself, and has a violent dream about her strangling Tom. If she hates Tom so much, why is she trying to care for him? Even if her attitude toward Tom lightens up later in the movie, the fact that she was even thinking about flat-out murder is inexcusable.

While Kelly sleeps, the tiger gets out of his cage. Yes. We’re never shown how, but the tiger gets out of his cage and into the house. This plot hole is so big that you could throw a massive star through it. Maybe Antares multiplied by the size of Betelgeuse. I don’t know – it’s the best and biggest thing I could come up with. Anyway, the next morning, as the hurricane hits, Kelly goes downstairs to get a drink. She finds a note from John saying that he has gone to the store. In a Category 3 hurricane? That’s impressive. As Kelly heads back upstairs, she sees the tiger cross the foyer under her. She and Tom hide.

How has the tiger not smelled, tracked down, and eaten Kelly and Tom by now? A tiger – screw it, a cat in general’s sense of smell is impeccable. Their hearing is five times better than that of a human, and three times better than that of a dog. They can sneak up on their prey almost silently. Even if you slammed a typical hollow wood household door in the tiger’s face, it would take less than ten seconds for the tiger to bash the door down by sheer brute force alone. Kelly and Tom should be tiger chow by now. But, in this movie, the tiger’s six senses work only when the plot demands that they do. Not only that, but even if the tiger’s senses actually worked in this movie, and if the tiger’s continuously relentless stalking actually remained consistent, and if Tom’s freakish autism remained consistent throughout the movie, Kelly and Tom would have been tiger chow in minutes. And, frankly, I want them to be tiger chow. I want to see this terrifyingly beautiful animal satiate its hunger in the most brutal of fashions.

Don’t judge me – I myself am high-functioning autistic. So I KNOW that Burning Bright shows autism in a completely unrealistic way. Tom acts not only like he doesn’t and refuses to live in the real world, but he also has no sense of fear or danger unless he is touched.


Do I mind being touched? A little. But I have a very good friend who is many times more autistic than I, and he minds being touched only a little bit more than I do. Thanks for your unintentional help, Fred.

Anyway, the tiger learns that Kelly and Tom are there, and, over the rest of the movie, it stalks Kelly and Tom throughout the boarded-up house.

Occasionally we get a few brief couple-second-long scenes of John at a busy, well-lit bar, drinking. During a hurricane? Not just why, but how?

And then, about twenty to thirty minutes before the end of the movie, we get this little screwup of a plot twist. While Kelly and Tom hide in John’s study, Kelly tears apart John’s desk looking for his gun. Good luck finding a home-owned gun anywhere in Hollywood. While rooting through the desk, she finds a form that…has something to do with life insurance. I don’t even know. I had to look up Burning Bright’s plot to learn that John has taken out life insurance policies on Kelly and Tom. Call me stupid, but I didn’t get the rest of the plot twist until about five minutes before the end of the movie, when John shows up at the house, takes the board off of the front door, and enters the house with a hunting rifle. I also had to look this up to learn that it was John who allowed the tiger to get into the house, so it could kill Kelly and Tom and so John could get the government benefits. Way to make up for a gigantic plot hole by making up a weak plot twist, scriptwriter. Kelly acts like this is a shock: John killed the mother and made it look like suicide. Honest to God (literally), I didn’t get that until Kelly actually said it. Again, call me stupid.

And then, literally out of nowhere, the tiger attacks and kills John, giving Kelly and Tom enough time to sneak out of the house. And then the movie just ends. Let me rephrase that. The movie sort of just…stops.

Tyger, Tyger, Burning Bright / In the forests of the night / What immortal hand or eye / Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Well, frankly, Burning Bright shouldn’t have dared.

Final verdict: 1 out of 5 stars.


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