By midlandsmovies, Jun 24 2019 07:19AM
Brightburn (2019) Dir.David Yarovesky
Written by Brian Gunn & Mark Gunn and produced by cousin James Gunn, Brightburn sure is a family affair. And family and growing up are two of the central themes in this new what-if-Superman-was-evil horror flick.
We begin with full-on Snyder-satire where the images from his disappointing Man of Steel are recreated so closely that I’m surprised DC haven’t filed a copyright claim. We get images of grain silos, barns and mailboxes as we discover a small town (ville?) called Brightburn located in Kansas (where else?).
What we have is mother Elizabeth Banks as Tori Breyer and David Denman as Kyle Breyer whose son Brandon (a nod to Superman Returns’ Brandon Routh?) was in fact discovered as a baby one night after a glowing spaceship crashed on their land. And so they take him under the wing unknowing that their child will soon develop super-powers.
Jackson A. Dunn as Brandon does well as we see an innocent boy uncovering his powers that make his school and personal life a misery. Parallels with the problems of growing up are echoed in his uncontrollable urges and difficult teen conversations. His mum and dad chalk this up to the perils of puberty but although his body is physically changing, he has an unnatural attraction to the spaceship he arrived in that is now hidden in their barn. And the red entity that lies within has him changing into a “super-brat” his parents struggle to control.
“Who am I?” asks Brandon, oblivious to his past and with his parents revealing the truth to him, his bad behaviour gets worse and the abuse of his powers increases. He breaks the wrist of a girl who doesn’t like him back, and in the most gruesome scene of the year (involving glass and a close-up on an eye) he brings awful revenge to her mother.
The film does well in setting up character, motivations and the plot and we uncover many truths along with the main players, first feeling sympathy and then disgust with Brandon’s strength. As he enacts punishment to seemingly petty situations, the film also explores the notion of maturity and masculity (his father gives him “the talk” and issues of gun ownership come up) whist Banks gives a great performance as the mum longing for, and protecting, a son no matter what flaws he has.
Brandon's blue pyjamas and red bed sheet outfit (!) morphs into a scary red-only costume he has drawn in a notebook and the film hints upon the 2013 Superman: Red Son comic mini-series which asks what would happen if Superman landed in Russia instead of the USA. Would he still do good?
Eventually Brandon flies up, up and away and with super-speed the film turns into a slasher of sorts as the authorities track him down after investigating a mysterious symbol Brandon leaves at the scene of his atrocities - and the movie's genre-homages were a pleasure to watch.
With an interesting idea and a surprising amount of gore and horror, Brightburn is a fantastic what-if fantasy film. With a mother desperate for a child to love, the film gives more depth to what could have been a throwaway fright flick and although firmly in the b-movie genre, I hope it gains enough of a cult following to deliver a sequel to its rather dark finale.