AUGUST 27, 2010
When I interviewed Briana Evigan at Comic Con in 2009 for Sorority Row, she kept talking about a movie she was really proud of called Burning Bright. But at that time, I knew it by its original title, Ravenous, so I had no idea what she was talking about (I might have the titles backwards - either way, I knew the movie but under a different name). Later I realized my error – “That’s the Meat Loaf vs. a tiger movie!” – and kicked myself for missing the rare chance to have a good reason to talk about Meat Loaf with an attractive woman, something that rarely came up during my formative years.
Of course, now I know she didn’t even work with him, as the Loaf is the tiger’s owner who sells it to Evigan’s stepfather, played by Garret Dillahunt. In fact, Loaf goes unbilled entirely, only appearing in that single scene, explaining to Dillahunt (read: the audience) how dangerous the tiger is, laying down the ground roles (i.e. don’t touch the cage), and then taking off to go record songs about how big is dick is.
In fact, there’s a lot of setting up to do in the first act – perhaps they could have let the tiger kill someone and then prevent it from eating him (the driving force behind his stalking Evigan and her little autistic brother is that he hasn’t eaten in two weeks) just to provide an appetizer until the film REALLY began – i.e. the two of them get trapped inside their house with the tiger. There’s a hurricane, there’s financial issues with the stepfather, there’s the brother’s autistic needs, etc. They also set up certain details about the house that will come into play later, such as the laundry chute and the giant freezer that someone (or two someones) could fit inside.
But once it finally begins, man does it work. Even though you know perfectly well that neither of them would die, it doesn’t make certain scenes any less nail-biting. The afore-mentioned laundry chute sequence is a particular highlight, topping even the similar one in Halloween 5 (it’s also the source of the film’s best jump scare). And I love how they solve the obligatory cell phone problem; it would have been easy and even somewhat logical to have the cell service interrupted from the hurricane, but instead they do something far more interesting/entertaining.
It’s not a particularly big house, so there is some repetition to the proceedings (this movie must hold the record for the number of times a piece of furniture is moved to block a door from the inside in a single narrative), but it also seems to take place in real time as Evigan fights to keep the kid safe, find ways to defend herself, and constantly seek a way out of the house, which has been boarded up for the hurricane, but as we discover (not too much of a surprise), their entrapment isn’t entirely accidental. And in that respect, it totally works as a tour de force, essentially one long chase sequence. Evigan acquits herself quite well, and the little kid is terrific too, even if his autism seems to be derived from a few viewings of Rain Man and not much else. To the filmmakers’ credit, they never have him “snap out of it” or anything, or use his autistic genius powers to get out of a situation – it’s merely one of many obstacles for Evigan; it’s entirely her fight.
I had heard comparisons to Halloween prior to seeing the film, and I see where they come from, particularly in the early scenes where Evigan knows she’s not alone but the tiger has yet to be revealed. However the film is not scope widescreen as I had hoped (it’s usually the first thing I think of when someone makes a Halloween comparison), and there were times where I think it could have been used to great effect. From what I understand, and as far as my trained eyes could tell, the tiger was all real; they’d have him do whatever in a hallway, have Evigan do the appropriate action later, and then blend the two together. Sometimes it DID look a bit like CG, but this could just be poor compositing – it’s hard to tell on a digital print. At any rate, the tiger action is limited, but they make it count when it happens. It’s a lot better than Maneater, is what I’m saying.
The movie has actually been on DVD in the States for a week or so, but I waited to watch it at Frightfest, as I had heard from Mr. Disgusting that it played better in theaters (he saw it at a festival a while back). And at first, I began to regret my decision, as there was a minor technical glitch that caused the film to be running at slightly fast speed, making everyone look jerky and making them sound like chipmunks. Luckily, it was quickly corrected, and it was even kind of amusing to see my beloved Meat Loaf sounding like Chip and/or Dale (incidentally, he has long claimed that his vocals were sped up on the original Bat out of Hell*). And even though it was on the smaller theater at Frightfest, it was still a great crowd experience, particularly during the laundry chute scare. All these horror fans with their Romero and Fulci shirts, getting scared when a tiger paws at the chick from Step Up 2? I wouldn’t miss that for anything.
What say you?
*I just realized the movie's biggest failing - not having Meat refer to the tiger as a "Cat out of Hell". Sequel!