BRIGHTBURN [Film Review]

by Joe Meyers

BRIGHTBURN – Rated R – 1 hour 31 minutes – Release Date: May 24, 2019 (USA)

Directed by David Yarovesky

Written by Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn

Starring:

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.”

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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.

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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.

 

Episode 179 – Remakes: The Reboot

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We felt it was time to start revisiting some of the topics we discussed in our formative episodes many moons ago, and the first one on the slab is remakes and reboots! Have a listen as we give our personal top ten lists of remakes and reboots, and be sure to check the links in the show notes for the Letterboxd companion list and where to listen to the episodes from the dark ages.

Episode 179 – Remakes: The Reboot

Letterboxd companion list

Voices From The Vault (Episodes 5 & 6)

What The Hell Is Chris Watching Now? – GODMONSTER OF INDIAN FLATS (1973)

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“I can’t accept this concept of intelligence.” – Mayor Charles Silverdale

Fredric Hobbs must have meant that when he wrote and directed 1973’s Godmonster of Indian Flats, because if he did accept a concept of intelligence, more than one character in it would have had some!

Okay, so let me back up a bit. First, apologies for the time gap between now and my last blog in this series. I’m inherently lazy and will slack off when given the opportunity. Second, the only reason this movie even came onto my radar was due to a search I was doing for films from 1973 that I could use for my “Birth Year Challenge” list on Letterboxd. And third, as soon as I saw the ratings and read the synopsis, I knew this would fit perfectly for the series and get me off my ass to write a post. So there.

(Spoiler Warning – I breakdown the whole film from here on out.)

Our story takes place in Comstock mining region of Nevada and opens with a heavenly choir and fake sheep bleating. The sheep are right there. Why they dubbed them, I do not know. We meet a young shepherd, Eddie, who goes into Reno and promptly gets hustled out of his gambling winnings after being taken by Elbow Johnson (seriously, that’s his name) to the historically restored mining town. Everyone with a position of power in the town is in on the racket, from the mayor and the sheriff, all the way down to the madam of the brothel and the local bartenders.

After getting rolled, Eddie is taken under the wing of Dr. Clemens (from Cambridge!), an anthropologist with a lab in the area. The doc takes Eddie back to his sheep ranch to recover from the beating and the booze. While Eddie is passing out in the sheep pen, a yellow glow and weird lighting begins to happen, accompanied by people just out of frame waving some very confused looking lambs around in the air. Suddenly one of the sheep essentially screams and pops out what looks like a twenty-pound placenta that also groans!

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“Oh… That ain’t right …..”

Jump to the next morning with Dr. Clemens and his student and lab assistant Mariposa checking up on Eddie. When they find him hiding in the straw next to the “hybrid embryo” (hybrid with what?!?), the doctor goes into full SCIENCE! mode with this find of the century and takes it back to his lab. I wish I could find some info on what exactly they used for the exterior set of the lab, but you must see it to really appreciate the absurdity of it.

While hijinks ensue at the lab for Eddie, Mariposa, and the doctor as the embryo grows, the parallel plot of Mr. Burnstable, a representative for a European mining corporation, trying to obtain the land rights of the area from Silverdale and his henchman, Philip Maldove, further shows the corruption within the town. Corruption to the point of (brace yourselves for this one) the sheriff having his dog play dead and making it look like Burnstable shot it during a target shoot game. They even have a funeral in the church, with a casket (that barks when opened!), all in an effort to discredit Burnstable and turn the townsfolk against him. I should mention that the sheriff sports a nice set of workman coveralls that he tacks his badge onto.

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Cut back to the lab and Dr. Clemens spouting 100% meaningless scientific jargon that almost sounds significant. The hybrid embryo continues to grow and look weirder each time we revisit it. Burnstable, with the help of Madam Alta, manages to escape a “vigilance committee” lynching following another frame up attempt by Maldove and Silverdale. They seek refuge at Clemens’ lab, and in the standoff that features eight or nine tear gas rifles (and cannisters that explode three or four times, depending on which clip gets recycled), the titular “godmonster” breaks loose and kills one of Silverdale’s men.

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The creature gets ready to tune up the gas station.

As hard as it may be to believe, at about the 70-minute mark of this 88 minute movie, we get one of the weirdest and funniest scenes of the film as Mariposa goes after the creature. Weird for the fact that she essentially dances with the thing to calm it down and show she’s friendly. Funny because of the following line: “Don’t be frightened. I’ve been following you all the way from the glory hole!”

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“Here, I’ll lead . . .”

The posse of Silverdale’s men and Dr. Clemens recapture the creature, and then the film really goes off the rails. As he’s having Burnstable driven out of town, Silverdale admits to dealing with the mining company directly after he bought up all of the local rights from everyone else in the interest of “conservation” even though he has every intention of reopening the mines. The townsfolk learn of the betrayal, a riot ensues, people are killed, Silverdale rants like a madman, repeating lines he’s spouted earlier in the film, and the creature gets killed in a truck explosion. … Credits.

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Not sure what the Fredric Hobbs was aiming for with this one.

Low as hell budget, bad acting, bad script, and an unforgettable creature costume of an 8-foot-tall hybrid sheep monster. What the hell did I just watch?? Well, it’s on Amazon Prime at the time of this post, and you can go check it out for yourselves and ask the same question after.