2019, R, Directed by Yarovesky, Produced by James Gunn, Sony Pictures, 90 minutes
There’s no denying that Suicide Squad had its fair share of issues. However, it contained one idea that was actually quite thought provoking. When attempting to justify her mission, Amanda Waller asks, “What if Superman had decided to fly down, rip off the roof of the White House and grab the President of the United States right out of the Oval Office?” Fortunately for them, Superman is a hero, but it left a festering question about what would happen if someone that powerful decided to use their power for evil. Brightburn seeks to answer that question.
Not Your Typical Origin Story
The film takes us into a family dynamic with a very special child. Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle (David Denman) claim that their son Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn), was adopted, which technically he was. But they begin to notice that Brandon has certain abilities, ones that he doesn’t necessarily use for good. The issues begin when he wakes up, almost in a trance, drawn to the barn where his spaceship was kept. After that, his powers manifest and he begins acting impulsively and violently. However, it almost works to the film’s detriment, because it seems as if he’s possessed by something.
It’s not a terrible decision plot-wise, but it would have been more interesting if he was mistreated and descended into madness and evil. This would have fit perfectly with the film’s over-arching theme of the horrors of puberty and growing up. One scene in particularly with Brandon and Kyle plays out much like a comedy as Kyle tells his son that having sexual feelings is normal and it’s okay to “take care of himself”. Again, it just would have made more sense to have his puberty and growing up lead to him deciding to be evil for his own reasons. Deep down it’s a fear many parents have, who just want to ensure their children don’t become the wrong type of person.
The First “Horror Parody”
Brightburn’s connections with Superman go much deeper than a simple line of dialogue. Much like the iconic superhero, this film deals with a baby landing in a spaceship, only to be found and raised by farmers in Kansas. In many ways, Brightburn is directly based upon the Superman mythos, only rather than take a comedic approach (as parody mostly does), it goes full horror. Thus, it may have inadvertently created a new Horror Parody genre. It most likely won’t be a genre that takes off, but it’s an interesting and amusing premise.
Holding Nothing Back
Honestly, the horror aesthetic really works for a story like this, because the idea of a super-powered individual with malicious intent is genuinely terrifying. The film knows this and runs with it full speed. Once Brandon commits fully to being evil, he becomes an invincible slasher villains with super powers. The murder scenes are brilliantly brutal and gleefully intense, in all the right ways for horror fans! Each scene is well directed with an incredible amount of suspense.
Overall, it’s a cool concept that’s executed well for the most part. Brandon’s motivation is a slight issue, but the brutality and shock value of the slasher scenes more than make up for it. It would be interesting to see this lead to another film with Brandon as a full-fledged villain, with a hero trying to stop him. But perhaps Hollywood should do what it never does, and just let this film stand on its own.