After crash landing on Earth, instead of becoming a
superhero, a young boy becomes something far more sinister.
Directed by David Yarovesky
Written by Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn
Starring Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn,
Emmie Hunter, Matt Jones, Meredith Hagner,
Gregory Alan Williams
What if an alien baby crash landed on Earth and, instead of being sent to help humanity, was sent to destroy it? That's the idea behind this welcome detour on the superhero train we've been on since 2008. Horror and superheroes have intertwined in comics since the beginning but not that often in film. The Toxic Avenger and Blade come to mind right away as an early and more recent example of a superhero movie having a horror angle on it.
This film is definitely repurposing the Superman mythos and packaging it as a horror movie. Is that a letdown? Not entirely because of how brutal this movie gets once Brandon Breyer (Jackson Dunn) learns what he is. Also, I was sold on the idea that James Gunn would be producing this movie as I have enjoyed his work since his Troma days.
I did have some questions about how he learns what he is but the film focuses more on the blossoming psychopath as he comes to terms with his power. The gore and level of brutality shown was a bit of a surprise but in a good way. There are some end credits scenes teasing at an expansion of this world and it's resemblance to a dark Justice League of sorts (an Aquaman and Wonder Woman-esque characters are mentioned). I can only imagine what a Batman version of this would be like in this universe. Here's hoping.
What if, after crash landing on Earth, Superman became evil instead of a force for good? That’s the core premise for Brightburn. A melding of the classic superhero origin story with the slasher subgenre of horror. Which makes for quite an interesting movie. Does it fully work? Unfortunately, not. But, this is still a distinct and unique look in today’s superhero obsessed culture. And, if you’re a fan of gory horror movies, there’s also quite a bit to like as well. Personally, I’m interested in seeing this story fleshed out in further sequels.
As I just stated, this movie is a pretty good mixing of the superhero and horror genres. On the former, you get the classic story with plenty of flying and laser eyes. On the latter, you also get plenty of gory kills which show what would exactly to the human body when a being this powerful attempts to harm someone. The other strong aspect of this film is the performances. Elizabeth Banks and David Denman are perfect as the parents trying to figure out what is happening with their son. Jackson A. Dunn also does a great job as the kid who turns more and more sinister as the film progresses. Now, as for what held the movie back for me a bit. And that has to do with the motivations of the kid. Brightburn spends very little time showing us why Dunn’s character has become suddenly evil, instead opting to wait for the potential sequel. Which would work if this was a guaranteed moneymaker. Until then, it’s an annoying aspect that holds this particular film back.
Other than a few story issues, Brightburn is an enjoyable, different take on the superhero genre. It’s not going to change the game anytime soon. But at least it’s a nice diversion from the usual MCU films we get every year. With some sequel teasing during the credits, I actually hope this does well enough to give us one. I say bring on more horror superhero films.