a critiQal film review Brightburn (2019)

Plot: After a difficult struggle with fertility, Tori's (Banks) dreams of motherhood come true with the arrival of a mysterious baby boy. Brandon appears to be everything Tori and her husband Kyle (Denman) ever wanted. But as Brandon (Dunn) nears puberty, a powerful darkness seems to manifest within him, and Tori becomes consumed by terrible doubts about her son. Once Brandon begins to act on his twisted urges, the miracle child transforms into a vicious predator unleashed on an unsuspecting Kansas town.

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  • ...with death sequences that make the gore worth it, a familiar story turned inside out, and a strong performance by Elizabeth Banks, this "what if" evil superhero origin story is worth a look.

When I first saw a preview for Brightburn, I knew I’d have to check it out. An evil superhero story? How could I miss that? So, when I found out it was now available on digital, I knew what movie I was going to be watching. But, would it be worth my time? Or is this another film that doesn’t manage to live up to its potential?

Jackson A. Dunne stars as the evil kid/bad superhero in Brightburn, and he does an okay job.  Unlike most child actors, he manages to bring an understated performance to the role, and the film is that much better because of it.  But, honestly, its the acting talents of his foster parents that really sell the film.

As his mom, Elizabeth Banks leads Brightburnin the acting department.  Fighting against the truth of what her “son” is, her personal journey through the film is a highlight, and seems to be a realistic portrayal of a mother’s discovery even during the fantastical story.  His dad, David Denham, is relegated to the background a bit in favor of Banks, but he gets a few scenes to showcase his shock and disbelief at what his “son” becomes.

The story itself will seem largely familiar – at least at first.  An alien baby (who looks human) crash lands in a small Kansas town, where he’s “adopted” by a farmer and his wife.  He gradually discovers he has powers (including super strength, invulnerability and heat vision).  Sounds just like Superman, doesn’t he?  Unfortunately for this town, he doesn’t use his powers for good.

It’s a smart “what if” setup, and it works pretty well for Brightburn.  Sure, there could have been more of that wonder of discovery that has earmarked many a young Superman story.  Instead, they showcase pretty clearly from the start of his powers that this “hero” is anything but.  The suspense/horror builds up strongly until a surprise ending that’s worth the wait.

That sense of horror in Brightburn is helped along by a few pretty impressive death sequences.  While gore is apparent in these sequences, it’s intensely focused.  Instead of just showcasing buckets of blood and large amounts of gore, each death focuses on one pretty intense injury.  Whether it’s a glass shard to an eye, a broken jaw, or heat vision burning its way through a person’s head,  the gore is evident, but done so in a manner that will make the viewer wince, rather than gag.

With some strong, focused, death sequences, a origin story you know turned on its head, and a strong performance from Elizabeth Banks leading the cast, this evil superhero flick turns out to be pretty good.  Sure, it could have been better, but there are a lot of good things about Brightburn that make it worth watching for any horror fan.

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