If you’re a nerd like me, you’ve probably at some point in time dreamt that you had superpowers of your own. However, while we often envision superpowers having a positive effect on our lives and being used for good, the reality is that it might not always be of benefit – and we often ignore the devastating effects that a person with remarkable superpowers could have on the rest of us.
This is the idea that forms around Brightburn, the new superhero horror movie from producer James Gunn, based on a script written by family members Mark and Brian Gunn and directed by David Yarovesky. The film follows the story of the Beyer family (Elizabeth Banks an David Denman) a couple struggling to have a kid of their own who gets a sudden change in luck when an object from outer space crash-lands on their farm, finally answering their prayers and giving them a child to raise. If the above description so far sounds exactly like the start of Superman, then you would be correct as its clear this movie is taking direct inspiration from this comic book character (including many of the super-hero traits revealed later).
However, that is where the similarities between the two characters end as Brightburn falls firmly in the horror territory and unlike with Superman, our 12-year-old boy (Jackson A. Dunn) who gets to discover his superpowers doesn’t quite have the noble aims of his underpants wearing counterpart and begins to terrorise the lives of those around him in the small town of Brightburn.
While the film may lack originality so far as its story is concerned, it certainly makes up for it in atmosphere, as the film remains creepy throughout. Director Yarovesky makes full use of a variety of scare tactics (some predictable, some not) to ensure that you never feel quite settled. At the same time this prevents the movie from moving from one jump scare to another, with the overall mood of the film kept dark, largely thanks to a compelling score from Timothy Williams and excellent use of cinematography by Michael Dallatorre that will have you looking for for some visual cues to prepare you for the the scares that await.
The other big foundation of the film’s creepy atmosphere lies in the performance of Dunn who plays the emotionless, yet equally childlike Brandon to full effect. Yes, you could argue that there are certain aspects of his super-power development that are glossed over and that he adapts to his new powers with too much ease. While these criticisms are all true, they are necessary deviations to keep the film from letting up on the tension which remains for the majority of the film outside of a few light-hearted moments thrown in to give you a break from it all.
Similarly, Banks and Denman as the unknowing parents who are fighting denial with the growing reality that their son might not be the innocent child they dreamed of is believably handled. It’s no Oscar-winning stuff here but is easily relatable and makes for some compelling emotional tugs as the film heads towards its climax.
Another aspect of the film worth mentioning is the gore factor. While there has no doubt been an effort to keep the film from becoming a full-on body horror film, it also doesn’t shy away from it either with a couple of moments designed to make you flinch with pained discomfort.
Brightburn is far from the best horror film you’ll watch this year and perhaps doesn’t do enough justice out of its anti-superman story but remains entertaining and tense enough to satisfy most people looking for a decent scare and a different take on the usual superhero fare.
Much like its superhero counterparts, this film does feature an off-beat mid-credit scene which features an entertaining Michael Rooker teasing not only a tie-in to Gunn’s earlier film Super and potential sequels if this movie ends up being a success at the box office, which considering its low budget, it probably will be even if it hasn’t set the box office alight in the US.
Last Updated: May 28, 2019