BRIGHTBURN – Rated R – 1 hour 31 minutes – Release Date: May 24, 2019 (USA)
Directed by David Yarovesky
Written by Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn
Elizabeth Banks as Tori Breyer
David Denman as Kyle Breyer
Jackson A. Dunn as Brandon Breyer
Jennifer Holland as Ms. Espenschied
Emmie Hunter as Caitlyn
Matt Jones as Noah McNichol
Meredith Hagner as Merilee McNichol
Becky Wahlstrom as Erica
Gregory Alan Williams as Sheriff Deever
Annie Humphrey Annie Humphrey as Deputy Aryes
Steve Agee as EJ
and…Michael Rooker as The Big T
Tori and Kyle Breyer, a couple struggling to conceive a child, find a baby in the wreckage of an apparent U.F.O. crash landing that occurs on their Brightburn, Kansas farm. They name him Brandon, decide to raise the boy as their own, and tell everyone they’ve adopted. Around Brandon’s twelfth birthday his parents begin to see a shift in his personality and, to their eventual horror, this very familiar superhero origin story morphs into something closer to “We Need To Talk About Kal-El.”
Director David Yarovesky and the Gunns have set up a wonderful world, just begging to become a franchise, with BRIGHTBURN. Yes, they’re obviously playing off the Superman story, but there are hints of Garth Ennis’ THE BOYS and Robert Kirkman’s INVINCIBLE here too, mixed with some serious slasher movie vibes. The result is a lean, mean, dark and twisted super-villain origin story.
Jackson A. Dunn does some heavy lifting as Brandon, skirting between a normal pre-teen kid and the monster he becomes in a believable way. I couldn’t help but think of WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN as events unfolded. While the script doesn’t dive into the dramatic side of things like that film did, it’s certainly feels like an influence, and Jackson mines the same darkness as Ezra Miller did in the role of Kevin. Elizabeth Banks and David Denman were great as the parents who take in this alien being as their child. Seeing their initial denial of what Brandon was becoming, to questioning if they were being willfully ignorant of what was happening, to finally witnessing their acceptance and how they deal with it was heart wrenching.
The effects were amazing, especially the level of gore the film provides at times. I wasn’t quite expecting that, and it was a welcomed surprise. There’s a scene involving an eyeball that hasn’t made me cringe that much since Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBI 2. This is really where I felt the inspiration from Ennis’ THE BOYS, showing the carnage of how normal people would, or wouldn’t as it were, hold up against super powers being used against them.
I felt like this film was made just for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of its lean run time. It surely won’t be for everyone, and I could actually see this finding a niche audience not unlike producer James Gunn’s 2010 film SUPER. As I left the cinema all I could think about is where they could go in this world from here. I crave a further bizzaro swap of character roles by seeing a Lex Luther type begin to hunt down evil, super-powered beings, Van Helsing like, after the events of BRIGHTBURN. Questions also swirled around my mind of where Brandon was from, if he was the last of his kind, or if he was sent to conquer Earth ahead of a full on invasion. There’s so much potential, so much more to discover, and I hope it’s all able to be explored in the future.