Movie review: 'Brightburn' gives horror twist to Superman story

Fred Hawson

Posted at May 30 2019 04:28 PM

A scene from 'Brightburn.' Handout

Living on a farm in Brightburn, Kansas, Kyle and Tori Breyer could not conceive a child. One day, a spaceship crash-landed in their premises. It contained a baby boy inside whom the Breyers adopted as their own, naming him Brandon. By the time he was 12 years old, Brandon began to show strange unpredictable behavior, becoming disrespectful and belligerent, and later, physically hurtful and violent. 

The story of Brandon Breyer was so much like Clark Kent, a.k.a. Superman, whose spaceship landed on the farm of Jonathan and Martha Kent. However, while the discovery of superhuman abilities led Clark to good and help people, these powers led Brandon down a road of sinister behavior. "Brightburn" was an innovative yet very twisted take on a classic American story of ultimate good, turning it into one of evil horror. 

The evil child had always been a trope of horror movies, but this one gives it an additional layer of science fiction for more punch. Brandon looked like a typical human boy, but he had uncommon alien abilities. Fifteen-year-old child actor Jackson A. Dunn who played Brandon had that certain unsettling look on his face that worked perfectly to bring about that feeling of dread in his scenes, even without that scary mask in mundane scenes. 

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The only actress I know by name in this film was Elizabeth Banks, who played Brandon's mother Tori. Being a typical mother role, Bank goes through all the stages of grief in this film when she discovered that her son was already becoming aware of his inhuman origin, for which Banks had given a most remarkable performance. She was a standout in this film where the supporting actors are merely adequate as they fall victim one by one to Brandon's growing evil, dying in ways more gory than the one before. 

Overall, I thought this was a good horror film as the director David Yarovesky (who had previously worked with producer James Gunn in "Guardians of the Galaxy") set a good pace to keep things interesting and always unsettling. There were scenes when I could not bear to look at the screen in anticipation of what may happen to his poor target, as I am not really a fan of gore films (even if these may be benign for true gore fanatics.) 

It is intriguing to discover how the filmmakers plan to spin this tale further with the promising ending. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."