BRIGHTBURN / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: DAVID YAROVESKY / SCREENPLAY: BRIAN GUNN, MARK GUNN / STARRING: ELIZABETH BANKS, DAVID DENMAN, JACKSON A. DUNN / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 19TH
Somewhere in Kansas, a spaceship crashes down outside the Breyer household. Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle Breyer (David Denman) find a baby in the wreckage. They lock the ship beneath their barn, and take him in (naming him Brandon). As Brandon grows up he develops powers. So far, so Superman. But this isn’t Superman. Written by Brian and Mark Gunn, and directed by David Yarovesky, this film explores what would’ve happened if Clark Kent had been a force for evil instead of good. The film mixes a superhero movie with a horror film. Great premise, but spoiled by the execution.
Tori and Kyle are idiots. If you find a child in what is clearly a crashed spaceship, and you don’t call the FBI and stamp the thing to death, you can’t act surprised when things don’t go well for you later. Needless to say, as it grows up they find it harder to keep a lid on their adoptee’s antics.
We understand the logic behind their decision to keep the baby. They wanted to adopt a child so badly, and they weren’t thinking entirely rationally. Fine. Here’s the problem: none of their decisions throughout the film convince us that they would have been good parents anyway. They actively try to avoid getting law enforcement involved and dismiss any growing signs of trouble. It makes it really hard to sympathise with them.
Brightburn attempts to make up for thick characters by cramming the film with jump scares. We stopped counting after 13. At that point, you’re just using the audience’s flight or fight response to cover up the film’s shortcomings. Credit where credit is due, though: the gore is really effective, and Banks gives a great performance. She makes the film as much about her as it is about her son. We’ve barely touched on him in this review, but Jackson A. Dunn plays the role of Brandon really well.
With sympathetic characters, and less of a reliance on startling the audience, this could’ve been something special. It could have shaken up both genres. But drawing so heavily on established characters just invites us to make comparisons, and this leaves Brightburn wanting.
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10