'Brightburn' (2019) A Super-Duper Movie Review
From the Trailer…
From the very first trailer that I saw of Brightburn, I was instantly enthusiastic about seeing the movie; it’s the origin story of Superman, except this is setting the narrative into a ‘what if’ scenario with a take on the superhero character being less than the regular boy scout. Instead of becoming the noble hero we all know the Superman character of being, he becomes an unstoppable monster that creates a particularly original and fun horror flick. That is the vibe that I got from the trailers and that is exactly what I got out of seeing the movie as well, thankfully. This is a fun and wicked little film that fully embraces the clever idea of ‘what if Superman’s origin story was turned into a horror film’. It was actually a breath of fresh air for myself as the superhero genre is immensely oversaturated to the brim currently in modern media and it’s nice to get something a little more original than the average modern comic book genre, as much as I do enjoy many entries out of it.
The premise is exactly like I said previously, the Superman origin; a seemingly human baby from another world crash lands onto Earth and secretly is adopted by a couple that live on a farm. In the early years of the child’s life he is raised by this loving couple while slowly coming to the realization that he is something different from everyone else as he discovers his own superhuman abilities. The path diverges here with rather than the boy learning that he must do good with his powers, he declines into sociopathic and narcissistic tendencies, which lead to the residents of this small town coming face to face with a homicidal young boy that insists on getting his way. No matter the cost.
Rejuvenating My Optimism
This year of 2019 for film hasn’t been very grand in all honestly, rarely in the last six months have I been specifically wowed by artistic potential in film. Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of movies that I have enjoyed the hell out of, but not much in the way of feeling as though I’m witnessing a creative spark igniting in front of me. However, there is still more than enough entertainment to be had with numerous movies released thus far this year, there have simply been very few that I would consider noteworthy of originality. Brightburn is one of the few on that noteworthy short-list. I thought that this was a cool concept to bring to the big screen; what if Superman was a creepy little bastard that started horribly mutilating and killing the people around him. That is an exciting concept that I can tell these filmmakers had a blast crafting as I had an equal amount of glee beholding. I would not call this a great film by any means, yet I certainly deem it to be a great time.
The Build Up
The film itself is more or less what I would call a superhero-slasher origin story, it takes it’s time building up how demented this kid gets. This isn’t straight up carnage and mayhem from beginning to end, so if someone walks into this film under that impression then they are going to be disappointed. Especially that of a younger audience with a shorter attention span, they will probably not get much out of this movie as they would likely expect constant destruction. Brightburn definitely has some truly gruesome and horrific sequences, however the viewer must be patient though as the film builds up to that point so the results are all the more satisfying or else what is the point? We need time to invest in these characters, build some tension and suspense so that the payoff of when carnage does erupt it is successful at roping us in. Keep in mind that this is a low budget exploitation film, not a high octane-big budgeted epic.
Despite the slow burn nature of the story, I never once found myself bored. I was always interested in seeing what was going to happen next, I was charmed by the married couple raising this alien child played by Elizabeth Banks and David Denman, and I even found myself in moments of slight suspense revolving around this kid tormenting a select sum of the locals. The kid himself, played by Jackson A. Dunn, did a good job at creeping me the f*ck out. Apparently I’ve seen him in only one other movie, Avengers: Endgame, as a brief cameo of a young Scott Lang. Honestly, I barely remember that. So, to me, this is the first sufficient film role I have seen Dunn perform. And I will say that he holds promise. He’ll probably make a terrific serial killer in a cop thriller one day, I can’t wait to see that! Seriously though, I thought that he did a good job. There were times I would say that he probably could have used better emotive acting techniques as there are moments where he comes off as somewhat wooden. Honestly, that was a very minimal thought that passed through my mind as most of his performance was solid.
The Gore & Effects
There is some winners here in terms of the gore effects! I don’t want to give anything away as part of the fun was how surprising some of these scenes became in their violence, but they are rather magnificent when they happen. Avoiding as much detail as possible; my favorite scenes pertain to a certain car accident, a sequence taking place in a diner, and a little camping trip in the third act. Those were some of the greatest, most cringeworthy, pain inducing, bloody as hell moments that I have seen so far this year and I dug the heck out of it.
For such a small budget on a project like this, the effects are very well done too. Which is good because if there was anything that could have gone wrong in a production like this, it would probably reside in the special effects department. Luckily, that was not the case as all the effects hold up remarkably well as there were no particular effect shots that stood out as being subpar from my recollection. Of course there is use of CGI scattered around the picture, but it was always well crafted and thoughtfully placed when absolutely necessary.
Unfortunately, this film does not come without its flaws. I won’t say that anything I’m about to mention is necessarily film breaking by any means, but they do stand out as weaknesses that distracted me from time to time. What I am mainly referring to is the incompetency of the parents of ‘Superman’ here, the characters portrayed by Elizabeth Banks and David Denman. While both actors do terrifically in their roles, the characters they are portraying make some pretty idiotic decisions when they should obviously know better. I’ll do my best to dance around spoilers, but the father in the third act does something so stupid that there was no way anyone could have thought that his ‘plan’ was going to actually work. The second I figured out what he was planning to do, I knew it wasn’t going to end well. Not to mention the amount of denial that the mother character is in throughout 90% of this movie exceeds all reason. To an extent, I understand as to why the mother would be so forgiving and gloss over so many details that conclude to the fact her son is a freak. I’m sorry though, when you discover porn and pictures of mutilated bodies under your kid’s bed then you have got to realize that maybe… JUST MAYBE… your kid needs psychological help at the very least. Instead she came to the conclusion that it must be a “guy thing”. Oh yeah, I forgot about the summer that I spent oggling photos of human organs as a teenage boy. Totally normal.
There are so many points that the parents would have and should have spoken to each other about the strange behavior displayed by their son, yet is immediately erased from their minds in the very next scene. The boy starts sleep walking and talking in a creepy language while attempting to bust open this secret door in the barn… nothing to worry about, I guess? Oh hey, how about when he starts chomping on his metal fork like it’s food while staring blankly at a wall? Sounds like a normal kid to me. There are a number of moments like those that were a little too ridiculous for me to forgive and forget, but they never brought the movie down enough for me to not enjoy my time regardless. They were simply aspects that I noticed and definitely did distract me occasionally.
This Was Fun!
Brightburn is a fun exploitation horror flick that plants an exciting seed for future installments of other ‘what if’ scenarios. I would be completely on board for this movie being the first stepping stone of a cinematic universe that creatively turns familiar superhero tales into horror flicks or maybe even other possible darker genres. That, to me, sounds awesome and I would love to see what else this particular idea has to offer. There is a lot of invigorating new territories that Brightburn can provide in future spinoffs and sequels, etc. A potential franchise that really peaks my interest certainly and I cannot wait to see where this premise may go, if allowed to progress. This was a fun, creepy at times, gory and cool slasher that takes its time setting up some terrifically blood drenched payoffs. It’s well made, well-acted, and totally recommend checking it out if Brightburn sounds up your alley!
What Superhero Origin Needs to Be Scarier?
So tell me, which superhero origin story would you be delighted to see turned into a horror film?
That’s All Folks!
Brightburn, what did you think? Did you like or dislike the film? Agree or disagree with my review? Wish Superman would punch my jaw off? Comment down below and let me know! If you so happened to have enjoyed my review then please do me a favor and share my article around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading and have yourselves a super day!
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© 2019 John Plocar