Release: May 24, 2019
Director: David Yarovesky
Written by: Mark Gunn and Brian Gunn
Starring: Elizabeth Banks as Tori Breyer, David Denman as Kyle Breyer, Jackson A. Dunn as Brandon Breyer/Brightburn, Matt Jones as Noah McNichol, and Meredith Hagner as Merilee McNichol
Running Time: 90 minutes
Review may contain spoilers
Kyle and Tori Breyer are a couple living on a far outside of Brightburn, Kansas. Whilst trying for a baby and having no luck, the couple’s prayers are answered when a space probe containing a human infant falls from the sky, and the couple take the infant in and raise him as their own. For twelve years, they raise the child without incident, until one night the space probe (which they have stored under a trapdoor in the barn for all these years) starts whispering messages to Brandon while he sleeps. Brandon begins to manifest superpowers, and grows progressively more violent culminating in his violently murdering his family and several other people in Brightburn.
Deconstructions of the superhero archetype are so ubiquitous these days as to have become a cliche. In the wake of Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight series, every hack with marginal writing ability wants to try his own hand at tearing down the superhero archetype. With the prevalence of superheroes at the cinema, it was only a matter of time before someone brought this trope to the screen. Enter: Brightburn. To any reader of comics, Brightburn doesn’t exactly have a unique premise, as the Superman origin story has been deconstructed multiple times. He’s been a commie, a nazi, Batman, and more. So, why not a high functioning autistic alien brood parasite with megalomaniacal tendencies?
At its core, Brightburn is a superhero slasher flick, and it pulls it off well. The executions have a certain air of, dare I say, fun about them, at times giving the film an almost darkly comedic feel. The scene of Tori hiding under the bed while Brandon throws a police officer around like a scene out of a Leon Schlesinger cartoon comes to mind. As does his using himself as a projectile (a “speeding bullet” if you like) to splatter the sheriff into a pile of rent meat and arterial spray. With a budget of somewhere between six and twelve million dollars, Brightburn falls into the same sort of ballpark as flick i reviewed previously: Hereditary. Like that flick, it is clearly put to good use. We have some actors, who while they may not necessarily be A-listers, are a cut above the standard random teens and twenty-somethings from small town Canada. The effects are also pretty top notch. The filmmakers have also opted to keep the movie at classic slasher flick length: around 90 minutes. This keeps the pace focused and flowing nicely. Sure, there are a couple of bits that drag and could stand to be shortened, but nowhere near what it could have been with a masturbatory run time in the 2 hour plus range.
Brightburn may be just another deconstruction of a story that has been deconstructed so many times that it is no longer shocking, but it certainly is entertaining. A nice alternative to the polite sameness of the MCU and the constant fumbling in the dark of the DCEU. If you enjoyed Superman as Batman, or as a loyal commissar of the Soviet Union, why not give him a spin as a twelve year old psychopath? Even if you’re not interested in that, if you’re a horror fan who also enjoys Superman, at least do yourself a favour and see if you can find a video of the kill scenes.