Struggling with bearing a child, the Beyers are struck with a miracle as a small spacecraft carrying a baby boy lands in their life. As Brandon reaches the age of 12, he begins to notice that he has powers, but decides to hold it in secrecy. Throw him into a school of bullies only adds fuel to the ticking time bomb. Even though they aren’t connected by any means, there’s no denying that “Brightburn” is inspired by Superman; yet taking on a much darker origin story, we get to live in the dream world as we sit along for the ride.
Going into the film I believed I was witnessing a thriller that flips the superhero genre on its head, however to my delight it was quickly established that this was more on the horror spectrum. “Brightburn” is riddled with not just narrative suspense, but that on the visual side. Clever camera and lighting techniques work to conceal and elongate the terror until the precise moment; causing you to jolt in your seat. That isn’t to say there aren’t predictable jumpscares. A few times you can see the scare coming from a mile away, but it is these more well crafted moments. Much of the scares are sold by the eerie performance of the young lead Jackson A. Dunn. The evolution of Brandon’s demeanor is illustrated through his facial expressions. Early on it reads innocence with a hint of melancholy and gradually festers into a smugly malevolent expression. Once Brandon dons the hood, evil is fully embraced. He doesn’t hold back on his powers and neither does the carnage. Those easily affected by gore should look away as some instances are excruciating to watch play out. It never becomes a gorefest from beginning to end, though the few scenes that showcase the brutality are graphic.
Fits of rage and graphic violence doesn’t deter the unconditional love placed by Brandon’s mother, Tori Beyer (Elizabeth Banks). Her love is interwoven through the core of “Brightburn”; one that seems to exceed everything else. It’s difficult for a character like hers to be written in a way that isn’t oblivious to the facts laid in front of her. The screenplay, with the help of Bank’s authentic portrayal, manages to craft Tori into a mother who sees the evil in front of her and continues to fight in an attempt to redeem Brandon’s dark path before it’s too late. We don’t get scenes of their relationship prior to Brandon’s teen years, though it’s very evident that there is a history filled with love and support.
Supporting characters act merely as brief narrative devices as they are sidelined by Dunn and Banks, and that’s okay. “Brightburn” isn’t about world-building or a large ensemble. It’s a short thrill ride that shocks most, wards off non-horror centric audiences and has the diehard fans yearning for more.