Cast: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn, Abraham Clinkscales
Director: David Yarovesky
Wow. Just wow. I knew that a superhero movie from the perspective of an evil child would be tough to watch, but my God. Brightburn had my stomach turning more than any other horror movie this year. We’ve seen superhero movies from the perspective of a villain or antihero before, but I haven’t seen anything like Brightburn in recent years. When a child can do things that made me physically look away from the screen, you know you have an absolute hit on your hands. With Banks and Denman leading the adult roles and newcomer Dunn owning his role as the child with powers, Brightburn might be the first movie in 2019 to stun me in the best way possible.
The film follows Tori (Banks) and Kyle (Denman) Brewer, a married couple in Brightburn, Kansas trying to have a child but are having conception issues. When a spaceship crashes on their property, it comes bearing a baby, which they adopt and name Brandon (Dunn). As Brandon hits puberty, he starts acting out and developing abnormal powers that he uses whenever he pleases. Tori are now faced with the difficult situation of controlling their child from doing any more harm while also understanding that they may have to give up on the child they love. The one thing that truly stands out in Brightburn is just how well-developed all of the main characters are. As Brandon’s strange behavior continues, we start to a division between Kyle and Tori as Kyle thinks Brandon is responsible for evil deeds while Tori still holds onto hope that her son is a normal boy. This division causes the two to take very different courses of action and Brandon responds to them in a way that a young boy with malevolent superpowers would. Speaking of Brandon, Dunn is absolutely phenomenal in this role which is rare from someone his age. You can tell just from the level of apathy and aloofness in his eyes he was coached very well for this role and has a natural talent as an actor. From the adult side of things, Banks is really the standout parent as she teeters and emotional line between love, fear, and denial like very few can. I think any good mother would try their best to exhaust all options to save their child from danger, and her denial is part of the overlap of her love which is expressed so effortlessly. This really is a tragic movie when you think about it from Tori’s perspective and it’s because of the performance of Banks that this point driven home the way it is. Moving onto the horror elements, there are two scenes in particular that stand out as some of the most gruesome of 2019. Very rarely do I have to take a moment to calm down after a scene, but Brightburn takes it to a new level with multiple scenes causing that level of distress. Brightburn absolutely earned its R-rating and made the most of it by not holding anything back from its audience. The only thing I wish this film had was a larger budget, because at the $6-12 million level, the area that gets impacted the most is the special effects. Some of these scenes are pretty sloppy looking, but honestly if this is the biggest problem your movie has it means you have a pretty great movie on your hands.
Overall, Brightburn shook me to my core in ways that movies rarely do. Considering this appears to be a passion project by the Gunn family, I’m glad to a unique type of horror-superhero give us the payoff we’ve been waiting so long to get. When people say, “Hollywood is all out of good ideas and all they do is make spinoffs and remakes,” point them in the direction of Brightburn. It’s definitely worth the watch.
Overall Score: 8.5/10