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Brightburn is an evil take on Superman

Director David Yarovesky explores the sinister side of an alien child coming to earth in Screen Gems Brightburn. Tori Breyer (Elizabeth Banks) and her husband Kyle (David Denman) have tried for a while to convince a child. One night the couple's lovemaking session is interrupted by a loud crash outside of their Kanas farm. Twelve years later, Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn) has accumulated to farm life with his loving parents.

While he is seen as smart by his teacher, Brandon is generally seen as an outcast by his peers. Brandon displays irregular behavior during his twelfth birthday party, which his mother thinks is just growing pains. Still, his father thinks there is something else going on. As strange occurrences start to occur around the town of Brightburn, Brandon's parents begin to wonder just who he really is.

Written by Brian and Mark Gunn (brothers of James), Brightburn is, in hindsight, a horror take on the Superman origin story. When I first learned about the film, I was looking forward to what the Gunn brothers would bring to the table, as I'm a fan of James Gunn's writing. I hold Gunn's previous forays into horror 2016's The Belko Experiment and 2006's Slither in very high regard. Like other evil children horror films, Brightburn was only going to work with the right child actor.

In his first leading role, Jackson A. Dunn is menacing as Brandon. Gunn's script makes the wise choice to slowly reveal Brandon's evil side as he discovers he's vastly different from his parents. Throughout the film, Dunn sometimes just stares at would-be victims or delivers a line calmly mixed with the right amount of malice. As his parent's Tori & Kyle, I found Elizabeth Banks and David Denman believable. Banks downplays her usual beauty and fully sinks into farm wife/mother. At the same time, Denman is a traditional alpha male who sees just how dangerous he is despite loving his son. The other actors don't really serve a purpose other than to play victims to Brandon, which is a shame since character actor Gregory Alan Williams portrays the town sheriff. I wanted to see more done with his character.

David Yarovesky directs his second feature with Brightburn and shows tons of potential. Yarovesky can create tension when in need of the film and provide some impressive effects work. Given that the budget for Brightburn was only six million dollars, I look forward to seeing what the rising director can do with a bigger budget.

Brightburn does eventually end burning out from its own ideas. With a quick ninety-minute time, the writers never get a chance to fully explore what Brandon can do.

I enjoy a hero discovering their powers as much as the next comic book fan. However, I would've liked to see Brandon gradually discover his strengths. While I'm still a massive advocate for seeing films in the theater, I can't but wonder if Brightburn would've worked better as a series.

With a series, the Gunn brothers would've been able to further explore Brandon's power, as well possibly setting up a franchise. As an R-rated comic book film for adults, Brightburn may not rank as high as Gunn's previous horror films. Still, the take on a classic story is an inventive one. While I wouldn't rush to see this in the theater, I would recommend the film once it hits the home market or for a matinee.

Final Grade C

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