SONY PICTURES RELEASING (2019)
Director: David Yarovesky
Starring: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn
What if Superman came to Earth and was BAD…and also a young lad call BRANDON.
That’s the extra simple plot breakdown of Brightburn, directed by David Yarovesky and not James Gunn as the movies frantic marketing campaign would have you believe. Gunn is credited as producer but his name has added extra attention to this superhero horror movie. In fact, the family Gunn have their fingerprints all over this as James’ brother, Brian, and cousin, Mark, wrote the screenplay. The trailers looked OK and hinted at the blood and gore in store but we all know trailers can be misleading.
The Superman line is pretty much the synopsis. An alien craft crashes on the farm of Tori (Banks) and Kyle Breyer (Denman) and inside is a young baby boy. Hmm. The pair adopt him as their own, name him Brandon (Dunn) and hide the spaceship…in their barn. Hmm. When Brandon turns twelve-years-old, suddenly he changes, becoming more aggressive and violent towards his parents and peers before fully realising his powers in horrifying ways. Superhero movies are often criticised for following the same formulaic narrative beats – despite the box office triumphantly declaring the movie-going public couldn’t care one bit – so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least intrigued by the prospect of a horror-drenched superhero movie (yes, The New Mutants is scheduled to be released this century, but this looks like an entirely different beast). Shorn of the shackles a cinematic universe imposes, Brightburn had the opportunity to deliver something fresh and exciting but, sadly, it never realises the rather large potential the story afforded. This is mainly due to the writing, in short, it’s not really very good. The scares come mainly in the form of schlocky, telegraphed jump scares that are repeated ad nauseam – though when Yarovesky gets the horror right, it’s highly effective (Hello there waitress eyes…) – and young Brandon is simply OP just…because? Show of power after show of power occur but never really delivers anything new. Whilst Elizabeth Banks is very good, Denman is just fine and Jackson A. Dunn has a demeanour which makes me dislike him even when he was just being a good boy. Whether intentional or not, it was effective, though I’m sure he’s a great lad off-screen.
When Brightburn threatens to slip into full horror mode, whether through glass-inflicted pain or ‘mysterious boy appearing at the window’, it's at its strongest but these moments are few and far between. With a brisk runtime of ninety minutes, the movie doesn’t waste anytime but it really feels like a missed opportunity in terms of delivering something refreshing and really creepy. Maybe it was the direction? Could Gunn himself have dragged more from this story? We’ll never know but Brightburn drops the ball in a lot of areas.
What Brightburn was afforded was the chance to prove that superhero movies could flourish from different viewpoints and perspectives and, at times, the glimpses were tantalising but the movie never lived up to its big potential. Cheap jump scares and uninspired writing combined with a limp story ensure Brightburn will remain a big ‘what if?’
What if this had been good. Disappointing.
June 23rd 2019