August 28, 2019
Box Office $17.3 million;
$30.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $38.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for horror violence/bloody images, and language.
Stars Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn, Matt Jones, Meredith Hagner, Emmie Hunter, Gregory Alan Williams, Annie Humphrey.
The common description of Brightburn paints the film as something of a dark superhero tale, a speculation about what would have happened had Superman turned out to be evil.
Such a summary is a bit of an oversimplification, both in terms of what the movie is trying to achieve and in the implication of what Superman is.
For the most part, though, the film is an effective thriller with a killer hook — what if Superman was the slasher in his own horror film?
The superpowered alien central to Brightburn is not Superman, of course, but a close enough stand-in given the circumstances involved. A childless couple wishes for a baby only to have one fall out of the sky in a spaceship. They adopt the child and raise him as their own, only for him to discover that he possesses wondrous powers.
After living a relatively normal childhood, Brandon Breyer (Jackson A. Dunn) quickly develops the powers of super strength, flight, superspeed and heat vision. Unlike Superman, he can also emit EM pulses to interfere with electronics.
Brandon’s alien nature has begun to assert itself, and his instincts tell him he was sent to Earth to take it over.
So he slowly embarks on his campaign of terror, first tormenting a young classmate he has a crush on. As the locals begin to shun him for his oddness, he grows more willing to kill in order to conceal his true nature. Even his adoptive father (David Denman) begins to distrust him, though his mother (Elizabeth Banks) refuses to give up on him.
The key difference with Superman, of course, is that Clark Kent was never driven by a preordained alien instinct for dominance. He was simply raised as a child with superpowers, and developed the moral lessons imparted upon him by his adoptive parents into his desire to pursue truth, justice and the American way.
But that’s neither here nor there as far as Brightburn is concerned. Produced by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) and written by his brother and cousin, the film relishes its chance to demonstrate how terrifying the prospect of a superpowered child can be once he realizes he is subject to no mortal constraints. Brightburn is creepy, disturbing appropriately gory in the best traditions of practical horror effects (with a modern assist from CGI).
The idea at the heart of Brandon’s sudden turn toward bloodlust gives rise to the five-minute “Nature vs. Nurture” featurette included with the Blu-ray, which explores the film’s family dynamic and suggests the film is something of a parable for parenting a difficult child.
The sentiment is echoed by director David Yarovesky in a short “social vignette” and the film’s commentary track, in which he recalls his own troubled upbringing and calls the film a tribute of sorts to his mother for putting up with him.
Yarovesky shares the commentary with his wife, Autumn, who serves as the costume designer, and cinematographer Michael Dallatorre. Their lighthearted and often crude discussion comes across like a group of friends making fun of each other and reminiscing on their shared experiences in relating the story of the making of the film. There are some pretty good insights offered for fans interested in knowing more about the film, as well as a fair share of poop jokes.
The five-minute “Hero-Horror!” featurette takes a look at how the film puts a dark twist on the telling of the usual superhero origin story. It’s mostly a standard-issue behind-the-scenes video of the cast and filmmakers discussing the movie, but it doesn’t go much deeper into really analyzing the influences on the film from among the greater pantheon of superhero mythology.
Rounding out the Blu-ray are the aforementioned social vignettes. Labled “Quick Burns Social Vignettes,” they consist of three videos running a total of two–and-a-half minutes. One video features Elizabeth Banks plugging the movie’s virtues, another offers James Gunn singing the praises of director Yarovesky, and the third is the interview with Yarovesky in which he discusses how his background influenced his vision for the film.