The day that Kal-El, aka Superman, crashed to Earth was a momentous ray of hope for Metropolis and the world, but the flip-side of seeing someone with all that power not fighting for good is exactly what this movie sets out to study; but is ‘Brightburn’ emblazoned with an S for super or a B for bad?
The film opens with Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle Breyer (David Denman) attempting to make their family a little larger by trying for a baby. Fast forward twelve years and the two of them are about to celebrate their son, Brandon’s (Jackson A. Dunn) birthday but as they do he begins to show dangerous signs of power.
There’s no denying that this is a film wishing to put a spotlight on the superhero trend and deconstruct our infatuation with them by twisting an extremely well known origin story/character into a darker version of events. It might not be the most impactful story or even a super savvy dive into the dingy underworld of superhero pop-culture, but forgiving the faults of unrealised potential; this is a suitably pitched feature of fear.
Dunn who portrays the pre-teen, Brandon, with elevated skills and skills in elevation is positively dead behind the eyes; a performance trait undesired by other actors but perfectly utilised here as it heightens the look to go with his unbending evil. As a result Brandon (no relation to former Supes Brandon Routh) brings on a red caped crusade of carnage which is wonderfully grim and overflowing with a bloodbath of tension. Running nicely with the chill-factor of Dunn’s acting is the creepy atmosphere dotted through the run-time which is so good when on show that you almost forget the moments when the movie dips and wanes.
At points the gore and gruesome quality of the film have visuals that hark back to B-movie days of horror and the films that producer James Gunn started out making. In some way you could almost toss this in the gleeful nightmare-barrel of things like Sam Raimi productions; such as ‘The Evil Dead’, what with the practical gore and unrelenting curse of something other stalking its prey. Yet ‘Brightburn’ is never fun enough to be silly schlock or terrifying enough to demonstrate its credentials as a memorable horror.
Mark and Brian Gunn’s story is one you can call from the outset and none of the characters hold enough weight to truly care for their plight. It’s clear the pair of Gunns were hoping to get the superhero genre in their cross hairs and shoot down powered folk by bringing a nasty edge to what we’ve come to understand and expect in the last ten years, thanks especially to the MCU, but the dark universe they’re obviously hoping for here does not feel like it has legs to stand on.
‘Brightburn’ crackles in enough places to keep the flame of tension and discomfort alive and thanks to a sinister hybrid of Damien from ‘The Omen’ and Superman tinged with severe growing pains of puberty it is a movie to enjoy in the moment but don’t expect to remember it come the close of the year.
Written by Troy Balmayer
Star Rating – ★★★
Question: What is your favourite non Marvel/DC superhero movie?
(Leave your answers in the comments section below!)
Thanks for reading this review and please let us know what you thought about the movie! Leave a comment below or drop us a tweet over at @HCMovieReviews.