Given that Halloween is just around the corner, I decided to take a look at a new horror film on the market that also crosses over into the other big genre of the moment: the superhero movie.
The trailer for “Brightburn” was a master class in leading the viewer into a false sense of security. The font introducing producer James Gunn was very reminiscent of that used in “Man of Steel”, and the slow motion shots of grass blowing in the wind, as well as the overhead shots of the farm which reminds us of Clark Kent’s upbringing. The first ten minutes of the film plays out like the traditional Superman story as well, but Superman this most certainly is not.
In “Superman”, he is sent from his home planet before it is destroyed, lands on Earth and becomes a hero thanks to his otherworldly abilities. He is always kept grounded and humble by his adoptive parents, who imbue on him a sense of humanity and the difference between right and wrong. “Brightburn” is more of a “what-if” story. What if, instead of sending someone to Earth to carry on their race using peaceful means, they have a more sinister plot in mind?
Essentially what we have is “Superman” meets “The Omen”. After struggling so long to have their own child, Tori and Kyle Breyer (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman) can’t believe their luck when one literally lands in their back yard. Kyle is sceptical at first, but for Tori, it’s love at first sight. This unconditional love means that when the boy they name Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn) starts to show his true nature, she is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. As things escalate, it becomes apparent that even though Brandon has been well looked after his entire life, his true nature overrides the nurturing he got from his parents.
On the surface, “Brightburn” is an interesting twist on the superhero genre, and as the film goes on, it leans more into horror territory. When you did deeper you realise the film’s scariest elements are in the subtext. From Brandon’s point of view, he is becoming a teenager, which has its own challenges, but these are magnified when you throw superpowers on top of these changes. When Brandon starts to discover his powers, he uses them in increasingly creative ways to exact revenge on people that have slighted him, “slight” being the operative word because nobody in the movie does anything inherently awful to Brandon, but in the mind of a teenager, they have. Secondly, watching this film as a parent, the whole thing can be seen as a metaphor for the difficulties of parenting. Elizabeth Banks gives a great performance as a mother who just can’t see past the fact that her child is not what she tried to raise him to be, and still can only see the helpless child that crashed in her yard years before.
“Brightburn” is a grim, grisly, horror that has plenty of jumpy, gross out moments that toys with the tropes of the superhero genre and proves to have a bit more going on than you might think. At 90 minutes, it goes by faster than a speeding bullet, and it does a great job of hiding its miniscule (in Hollywood terms) $6 million dollar budget.
These are the learned and brilliant words of our man Kevin Dillon, @kevinwritestuff.
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