Written by Brian and Mark Gunn
Directed by David Yarovesky
Released May 2019
I recall that when I first saw a trailer for this film earlier this year I was instantly intrigued. I love superheroes and horror movies and this was a horror movie clearly based on the origin of the one and only original superhero. This was a brand new property, not based on any pre-existing comic-book or story, so my expectations were open. But I wasn’t moved enough to go see it in the theater nor to buy the DVD when that came out. The film basically came and went in the theaters (although, with it’s low budget, it’s box office turned a healthy profit), and I sort of forgot about it, until I saw some commercials for it showing on Starz. So today I finally got to see it and…
…it blew me away! I loved it!
I’ll try to avoid major spoilers, but there I’ll cover the main points.
David Denman and Elizabeth Banks play Kyle and Tori Breyer, a young married couple who run a farm in a small town in Kansas (Brightburn is the name of the town), one day a spaceship crashes in their farm and they find what a appears to be a young human baby boy inside. They take the boy in, hide the ship and proceed to raise him as their own son, whom they name Brandon. Flash forward 12 years to the present day, Brandon (now played by Jackson A. Dunn) is one of the smartest kids in his school and, although he occasionally gets teased by the other kids, he appears to be relatively normal. But changes start happening after he turns 12.
The spaceship, locked under his parent’s barn, begins transmitting some kind of message that only he can hear, drawing him to it, while putting him in a trance-like state. He starts acting more aggressive towards other people, including his parents and other kids at school, and he starts exhibiting his superpowers. He’s super strong, very fast, appears to be invulnerable and eventually learns to fly. Most of this he keeps secret from his parents at first. But when he finally gains access to the spaceship and learns what he is, shit gets real.
Basically, little Brandon starts hurting people, including a girl at school whom he had a crush on, but who rejected him, and her mother. Soon not even his own aunt, who is also the school psychologist, and uncle are safe from Brandon’s wrath. And Kyle finally realizes what his son is capable of, he decides to try to take matters into his own hands. And let’s just say that it doesn’t end well for him.
Based on the premise and the trailers it was easy to assume that this was some kind of superhero subversion film, but it’s really not that. Sure, it takes from the Superman story, but this really is a straight horror film, with a lot more in common with THE OMEN than with comic-books. A dark child with superhuman abilities, it’s just that those abolities come from him being an alien, instead of the anti-Christ.
And for the record, it is GORY. This film does not shy away from showing the actual damage that someone with those powers could do to a human being. But it’s not just a gore-fest, it very nicely builds the suspense throughout the film, leaving the audience on the edges of our seats as we wait to see what Brandon is going to do next. I was riveted from start to finish. And another good thing is that it’s only about a hour and a half long. So there’s no time wasted.
Denman and Banks do a great job as the parents, neither of whom want to believe the worst about their adopted son at first. Kyle becomes suspicious quicker, but Tori continues to dimiss his concerns, and much credit goes to Elizabeth Banks as she portrays Tori as a loving mother who just can’t allow herself to accept the truth about her son, without making her seem just clueless. There is a scene with her and Brandon at the end which is just heart-breaking.
And speaking of Brandon, young Jackson A Dunn nails this role. He switches from innocent to ominous effortlessly.
All in all, this is a film that I most highly recommend.
I’ll be happy with the film standing alone. As noted, it made a profit, enough so that if they kept the small budget they could justify a sequel. The film does make some small references to other possibly evil super-powered individuals, who are analogs of other famous superheroes, who exist in this world. Producer James Gunn has spoken of the possibility of a sequel, but there are no definitive plans.
I thought it was ok. Wasn’t blown away by it but I enjoyed it. It felt a bit predictable as most horror movies do, but it did a great job of showing the amount of damage/carnage that someone with the power levels of Superman could really do. I watched it on CraveTV here on Canada, but I read somewhere that there were deleted scenes that set up the idea of a sequel. One of which involves the girl from Brendon’s classroom with the broken arm getting a bionic replacement while watching news footage of “Brightburn” causing chaos.
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I read in one of the interviews about the film that the ending with the girl and the robot arm was one of several possibilities that they discussed in order to tease the idea of a sequel, but wasn’t actually filmed before they settled on the newscast ending.