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REVIEW: 'Brightburn' is gruesome spin on Superman legend

REVIEW: 'Brightburn' is gruesome spin on Superman legend

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Linda Cook

Linda Cook

This is one of the darkest, most disturbing films of the year. “Brightburn” is a gruesome, bleak spin on the Superman legend.

It begs the question: What if a baby who lands from outer space is evil, has been dispatched to harm, not help, the human race? What unfolds is a horror flick that happens to have an alien child as its central character – a true hybrid when it comes to genres.

"Brightburn"

"Brightburn"

James Gunn, known for “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Slither,” was a producer for this twist on the Man of Steel story.

Tori Breyer (Elizabeth Banks) and her husband Kyle (David Denman, “Puzzle”) live in Brightburn, Kansas, where they hope someday to have a child.

When a craft crashes from … well, somewhere else … they discover an infant inside and take him in as their own. Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn, “Avengers: Endgame”) is a quiet, smart kid who grows up to be adored by his parents.

There’s a terrific scene with wonderful foreshadowing. Brandon explains to the rest of his class, by whom he is continually mocked, the difference between predatory wasps and pollinator bees. It’s as though he is describing himself compared to earthlings.

With the onset of puberty, Brandon starts to change, and not for the better. He begins to mouth off to his parents, which isn’t surprising. But he also discovers he has super-human strength (it wouldn’t be fair to ruin this scene for you, because it happens so quickly and naturally.) He also begins to be attracted to the craft hidden on his family’s property.

Additionally, he becomes cruel, and begins to make inappropriate remarks that his parents and other adults try to shrug off until one particularly violent act leaves them astonished and almost afraid. Just what is happening in this kid’s mind?

When Brandon begins his metamorphosis, bodies begin to pile up around him. We’re not left to wonder about how these characters meet their deaths: We see their demises in all their brutality.

Cousins Mark Gunn and Brian Gunn (Brian is a brother of James Gunn) wrote the clever script. I love the references to the Superman tropes – there’s even a macabre nod to the Superman-and-Lois-Lane flight scenes – and the costume Brandon begins to wear while he unleashes bloody havoc on the rural community.

This is fear-inducing, unsettling content, certainly not for children, nor for those who avoid Tarantino-esque violence. It joins the ranks of other “evil children” stories such as “The Midwich Cuckoos”/”Village of the Damned,” “The Bad Seed” and the classic “The Twilight Zone” episode “It’s a Good Life.”

It's for audiences who don't mind cringing while they watch.

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Film critic/reporter since 1985 at Quad-City Times. Society of Professional Journalists, Broadcast Film Critics Association and Alliance of Women Film Journalists member. Member of St. Mark Lutheran Church.

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