As a hardcore Superman fan I was very intrigued and a bit excited for “Brightburn.” I think we’ve reached the point in pop culture where, what with the glut of superhero movies being released, we can finally start to deconstruct and or satirize the classic mythology. With “Brightburn” the premise amounts to a spooky, chaotic, violent, but very entertaining horror tale that re-thinks one of the most recognizable superhero origin stories in pop culture history.
Tori and Kyle Breyer is a married Midwestern couple struggling to have their own child. When a meteor crash lands on their farm, they discover a newborn baby within the space ship that carried it. They decide to keep the baby and raise it as their own; named Brandon, he eventually grows up to become an intelligent albeit alienated preteen who finds it hard to fit in school. When he realizes he’s adopted and possesses god like abilities, he begins to use his powers to strike down people that make his life difficult. As the body count rises, Tori and Kyle decide to do something before it’s too late.
To sum up “Brightburn” in one sentence: What if Superman… but as a psychopathic murderer? That’s basically the premise for “Brightburn,” a dark and clever horror tale that takes a seemingly sweet tale of family and turns it on its head in perverse angles that will help propel this as a cult classic. Director David Yarovesky obviously worked very close with the Gunn brothers, as James Gunn produces with Brian and Mark Gunn writing a very well paced and simple horror twist on the superhero film. Director Yarovesky manages to channel a lot of Gunn’s trademark nihilism and vicious violence, turning Brandon from a sympathetic protagonist in to a vicious antagonist over the course of the narrative.
There’s a stunning sense of dark whimsy with the way Brandon discovers his powers, and the way he feels about the people around him. Once he comes to the realization that he’s a virtually unstoppable it’s a moment of dread that dawn upon the audience. When we meet Brandon he’s already a complicated child as it is, so once we get familiar with what he’s capable of, it’s the virtual birth of an unstoppable monster. “Brightburn” implements a healthy sense of ambiguity in regards to Brandon’s origin, where he comes from, and how he obtains his powers. All we really need to know is that he’s a nearly invulnerable weapon and he’s been unleashed on mankind.
The performances all around are top notch including David Denman, and Elizabeth Banks as a mother anxiously trying to see the good in Brandon as he descends in to darkness. As Brandon, Jackson A Dunn might have one of the most understated performances of the year, portraying a sociopath with a God complex who doesn’t see anything stopping him in the near future. That’s what makes him a truly scary horror villain. “Brightburn” is a gem that mixes sub-genres and builds a pretty terrifying premise out of classic superhero lore.