BRIGHTBURN (2019) creatively brings dark horror to the superhero genre

What if a boy crash-landed on Earth, grew up on a farm, donned a red cape, but instead of becoming a symbol of hope, he became the bringer of pure evil. That is Brightburn.

This James Gunn-produced horror sci-fi film promises to be dark, violent and scary with its very grim subject matter. From the get-go it lets you know that almost nothing good is going to happen, but does it deliver on that claim?

Right off the bat, it’s clear this is a very interesting mashup of genres that could be difficult to pull off. In the past there have been superhero films that incorporated some light horror themes, but Brightburn doesn’t hold back, cementing its place as a full-blown horror film. The ominous tones are there from the beginning, and tension begins to rise predominantly once the second act takes off. The first act takes its time to ease you into the characters and the story, and builds some tension but not enough to really draw complete attention. It’s drawn out a little long and could have been tighter, but once the action kicks off it delivers on the insanity.

The rest of the film is tense, its successfully scary on occasion and you genuinely feel the threat of this super-powered kid who could wipe out entire cities single handedly. It’s refreshing seeing a superhero film that isn’t trying to set up a shared universe or include famous superhero cameos and can just focus on building this world and this story within one movie. That’s why Brightburn works so well, it focuses on developing this one character and doing so very well.

For a movie that’s only an hour and a half long, it feels like you’ve been sitting there for two hours once it’s over. This is in a good way though, as the tension and effective horror has you so gripped in the final act you lose all sense of time. I will say, one larger criticism I have is that Brightburn, at times, feels unnecessarily grotesque. There’s two specific scenes that come to mind that I don’t think needed to be as gruesome as they were to get the message across. They don’t ruin the film at all, just don’t think they help it in any way.

David Yarovesky directs a talented lead cast who all greatly contribute to the action, drama, trauma and emotion within this story. Elizabeth Banks and David Denman play the adoptive parents of Brandon and they have some strong scenes together. Elizabeth is definitely the stronger of the two and has some incredible scenes, both on her own and with Brandon, where she shows off her fantastic acting ability.

Forget Elizabeth Banks for a moment because the star of the show is undoubtedly the young Jackson A. Dunn who plays Brandon, Brightburn himself. He plays the lead role so well it’s hard to take your eyes off him. Yes, he plays a very stoic character, but he brings plenty of personality to the character to make him an interesting protagonist. This is a strong breakout performance for the young actor who will no doubt get more roles from this.

Lastly, I need to highlight the score which may be my favourite aspect of the film. The way it blends a superhero film score with a horror score is genuinely incredible. It’s loud, booming and is very impactful in relation to the chaos happening on-screen. A great chilling score that won’t be forgotten within the genre.

In the end, Brightburn delivers very well on the grim superhero/horror mashup it promised. It’s scary, action packed, bloody, but also packs in a good amount of family drama and emotion to go along with it. It’s not an amazing film as it has some drawbacks within the first act, but it’s a very original film that will no doubt entertain you right through to the final moments where it ends on a really strong note. Definitely worth a watch.

7.5/10

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