David Yarovesky’s Brightburn earns every puddle of eye juice, mangled corpse, and horrific disfigured gore effect of its *hard* R-rating. Yes, this is the “evil Superman origin” slasher promised. Gruesomely inclined to scare prospective parents off pregnancy timetables; complicated enough to thread adoption drama through rural massacre despicableness. A child discovering limitless power, lied to by society, wrestling temperamental consciousness while befalling the corruption of man. There’s a lot to savor, but the flavors end up somewhat expected despite mature adolescent horrors.
Can you kill what you love or love something that kills? Brightburn isn’t the nightmare to answer such crippling caretaker choices, but hey, here are some wicked genre kills you’ll never scrub away!
Brandon Breyer (Jackson A. Dunn) is a Brightburn, Kansas resident with an undefined past. Mother Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and father Kyle (David Denman) found their baby boy when his spacecraft crashed in their backyard. Now a pre-teen, Brandon’s hormonal changes are manifesting in suspicious ways. Why is he in the barn trying to rip open locked doors? What’s that glowing red light signify? Did he slaughter all those chickens in the family coop? Brightburn is about to find out what makes Brandon such a unique individual, especially when voices in his head begin chanting “Take The World.”
Writers Brian and Mark Gunn have penned a super-powered serial killer original that’s relentlessly dark. Devious, unsettling, and downright hateful. A youngster’s motivations are so unpredictable having not yet fully developed moral divisions, which makes Brandon all the scarier. Reasoning with a mid-tantrum kid is borderline impossible. Now grant said kid abilities such as flight, laser blaster eyes, and superhuman strength. It’s a concept poured directly into horror molds, unflinching when picking the worse of two evil outcomes during crossroads conflicts.
What fails Brightburn is a marketing campaign that sells *exactly* what Yarovesky’s hatched. Trailers and television spots assure viewers Brandon’s intentions are only ever malicious, squashing surprises that would have otherwise overshadowed generic sinister-immature-mastermind developments. Characters from angry waitresses to nosy sheriffs to Brandon’s own “family” come and go precisely as their thinly outlined arcs suggest. Demises may be sensationally brutal, but momentum wanes when Brandon isn’t in “Hellbent Clark Kent” mode. It’s the kind of film that makes you want to yell directly towards the screen, but of course you don’t because you’re a respectful moviegoer.
For Satan’s sake, though. Let’s keep talking about Brightburn’s bodily desecration.
Jackson A. Dunn’s standout acting is noticeable after Brandon inflicts indescribable harm unto victims, when his reactions are viscerally child-like and uncaring. A man, gushing blood from his *gnarly* facial wound, can only gaze upon Brandon as he lifts the red wool covering over his head, smiling while he draws his back-to-back “B’s” signature in fresh blood. Dunn’s selling of innocence and doubling-down on “creepy killer kid” blankness becomes deeply nerve-teasing, especially when coupled with unspeakable acts of mutilation. Nauseating eye trauma, bodies that explode organs on swooping impact, glass shards sticking out of fleshy faces – as someone who can tolerate gore, Brightburn challenges 2019’s stickiest grotesqueries.
Elizabeth Banks and David Denman embody unexpected parents to an extraterrestrial planet destroyer with limited familial arcs. Denman, the male perspective, becoming aggressive and doubting of their son’s innocence far sooner than Banks’ maternal protector. “I’ll always love you,” Tori repeats over and over, choosing to ignore irrefutable clues that implicate Brandon via blood stains and feeble lies. It’s a balancing act, but one that asks us to believe two human “adopters” hiding a downed space vehicle in their barn would struggle so tremendously parting ways with their red-flags-everywhere inhuman space son – even with an establishing shot of infertility self-help books upon opening.
Brightburn is a blisteringly graphic supervillain origin born from the wickedest horror genre intentions. Hand David Yarovesky any slasher franchise at this point, and you can expect exquisite savagery by way of dielight reel kill sequences. There’s a lot done right here from the way Michael Dallatorre’s cinematography captures impending dread as Brandon levitates, ready to strike, to honest-to-goodness “WTF” moments slathered in icky death accents, all slighted by a core hypothesis that’s executed on a basic storytelling level. Either a color-by-numbers genre slaughterfest will pleasantly punish you, or Yarovesky’s steeped-in-spite genre hybrid will blow you away based on human meat grinder allure. How much ingenuity does your kill-count-heavy horror need?
Brightburn doesn't ask if you want blood, but you've damn-well got it in this nastily gruesome superhero hack-n-slash that's a nightmare for parents everywhere.