In a brutal twist on the superman mythos that would make Zack Snyder pitch a tent in his boxer shorts, Brightburn flies into cinemas with a simple yet bone chilling premise: what if Superman was born bad? The superhero genre has been around long enough now for filmmakers to start subverting the genre in a myriad of ways and Brightburn takes great pleasure in perverting quite possibly the greatest origin story in comic book history by making the man of steel into a dead eyed little fucker with the ability to tear you in half like a phone book.
Childless couple the Breyers (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman) find a child inside an unidentified flying object that crash lands on their farm and instead of reporting it, claim the orphan as their own seeing him as a gift. However as young Brandon reaches his twelfth birthday something inside way more sinister than a growth spurt or the arrival of pubes triggers him into finding out that his skin is unbreakable, he’s super strong and he can fly and instead of looking for muggers to bring to justice, he looks to bend others to his will.
Essentially The Bad Seed with heat vision added at no extra charge, Brightburn, despite it’s high concept, is surprisingly and sadly predictable. If you’re even remotely familiar with the first 20 minutes of the Richard Donner Superman movie or have watched a single flick in the psycho kid genre then you’ve pretty much seen Brightburn already, the familiarity of both making the film signpost each and every twist and plot turn before it happens. What you’re left with is a competently made, if basic, horror/thriller without many surprises but some decent jump scares and some truly gnarly death scenes that add some much needed oomph to the film.
When not bouncing out of your seat when Brandon utilises his super speed to appear behind people at a whim or recoiling at some poor bastard’s jaw coming off in a car wreck, Brightburn utilises some truly creepy imagery (Brandon floating outside people’s windows invokes similar scenes from Salem’s Lot) and his home made mask and Cape are thrillingly unnerving and it’s all cemented by Jackson A. Dunn’s appropriately dead eyed performance. All the performance are good (this is Elizabeth Bank’s second go at James Gunn related horror after Slither) and director David Yarovesky crafts memorable, gruesome and creepy sights but Brightburn simply is missing a vital component that makes it essential viewing, and that’s unpredictability – although a mid-credit sting hints at a potentially mouthwatering connected universe.
Certainly good for a watch, Brightburn ultimately misses the extra factor that a directing or scripting gig by James Gunn would have brought instead of the producing job he has here and ends up having the same feeling of a concept half-realised as his other producing gig The Belko Project.
Well made with cool gore but unfortunately as hollow as it’s super-brat’s psyche, Brightburn legitimately fun, but not amazing, which for a concept as rich as this can only be judged as an opportunity disappointingly missed.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a fucking psychopath!!