Director David Yarovesky explores the sinister side of an alien child coming to earth in Screen Gems Brightburn. Tori Breyer (Elizabeth Banks) and her husband, Kyle (David Denman), have tried for a while to conceive a child. One night the couple’s lovemaking session is interrupted by a loud crash outside of their farm. Twelve years later, Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn) has become sufficiently accumulated to farm life with his loving parents.
While he is seen as smart by his teacher, Brandon is as an outcast by his peers. During his twelfth birthday party, Brandon begins to display erratic behavior, which his mother thinks is just growing pains, but his father thinks there is something else going on. As strange occurrences start to occur around the town of Brightburn, Brandon’s parents begin to wonder who he is.
Written by Brian and Mark Gunn (brothers of director James Gunn), Brightburn is a horror take on the Superman origin story. When I first learned about the film, I was looking forward to what the Gunn brothers would bring to the table with this premise, as I’m a massive fan of James Gunn’s writing. I hold Gunn’s previous forays into horror, 2016’s The Belko Experiment and 2006’s Slither, in high regard. Similar to other evil children horror films, Brightburn was only going to work with the right child actor.
In his first leading role, Jackson A Dunn is menacing as Brandon. The Gunn brothers’ script made the wise choice to slowly reveal Brandon’s evil side as he discovers he’s vastly different from his parents. Throughout the film, Dunn sometimes stares at would-be victims or delivers a line calmly mixed with the right amount of malice. As his parent’s Tori and Kyle, I found Elizabeth Banks and David Denman believable. Banks downplays her natural beauty and fully sinks into farm wife/mother, role. While Denman is a traditional alpha male, who despite loving his son, sees just how dangerous he is. The other actors don’t serve a purpose other than to play victims to Brandon. This is a shame since character actor Gregory Alan Williams portrays the town sheriff, and I wanted to see more done with his character
David Yarovesky directed his second feature with Brightburn and shows tons of potential. Yarovesky can create tension when needed in the film, as well as, provide some impressive effects work. Given that the budget for Brightburn was only six million dollars, I look forward to seeing what the rising director can do with a bigger budget.
Brightburn does eventually burn out from its ideas. With a quick ninety-minute run time, the writers never took the chance to explore what Brandon could do adequately. I enjoy a hero discovering their powers as much as the next comic book fan; however, I would’ve liked to see Brandon gradually discover his superpowers. While I’m still a massive advocate for seeing films in the theater, I can’t help, but wonder if Brightburn would’ve worked better as a series. With a series, the Gunn brothers oculd’ve been able to explore Brandon’s power further, as well as, possibly set up a franchise.
Serving as an R-rated comic book film for adults, Brightburn may not rank as high as Gunn’s previous horror films, but its spin on a classic story is an inventive one. While I wouldn’t rush to see this one in theaters, I would recommend the film once it hits the home market.
Final Grade: C