Review: Compelling 'Brightburn' gets lost in the horror genre

May 28, 2019

Courtesy of Screen Gems

 

Considering our multiplexes are populated with a superhero film each week, it’s only fitting that producer James Gunn (who gave us “Guardians of the Galaxy”) would return to his horror film roots with an anti-superhero flick “Brightburn.”

 

Set in cozy Brighburn, Kansas, and written by Gunn’s brother, Brian, the film flips the “Superman” narrative on its head, setting the audience up for an almost identical scenario before taking us in a far more scary direction. James Gunn regular Elizabeth Banks is Lori, who with her husband Kyle (David Denman) have been struggling to get pregnant. After an unexplained meteor falls from the heavens with a small child inside, the couple would assume there luck has changed. But as there child Brandon (Jackson A Dunn ironically last seen in “Avengers: Endgame”) grows up, they sense something is terribly wrong.

 

“Brightburn” manages to squeeze many interwoven plotlines into its often rushed 91 minutes, teetering on the edge of absurdity. On one hand this is basically a satire, tricking the audience into thinking this is just another ho-hum traditional Memorial day blockbuster (to which I can assure you Sony and director David Yarovesky opted for a very hard R rating).

 

Still, that doesn’t stop “Brighburn” from faltering into the all-too-familiar creepy kid horror formula wrapped in a glossy meta of smug references in regards to horror movie lore. Gunn’s script doesn’t afford us much time into Brandon’s internal struggle, gazing over the more interesting aspects of his origin in favor of grotesque and cheekily muddy B-movie carnage (maybe it was unreasonable of me to expect this film to give any emotional depth?) Though the mutilations are indeed memorable.

 

With a touch more attention to detail. “Brighburn” could’ve been more, but at least the performances from Banks, Dunn, and Denman give things a compelling sense of urgency. And to see a studio backing a genre studio-horror picture seems like an encouraging step in this climate, not to mention seeing Gunn return to his medium (after his flick “Slither” still remains one of the all time great creature features) is fairly rewarding. In that regard, you have to appreciate the film for trying to disrupt the superhero model, even going as far to end on a bleak note, which, in a sense, is genius - but when you look at the bigger picture it hardly seems original. There’s enough flicker here to resonant, but not enough fresh and organic ideas to outshine the films it’s using for inspiration.

 

Grade: C+

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