James Gunn's latest superhero project, Brightburn, puts a terrifying spin on a Superman-like origin story.
Produced by Guardians of the Galaxy filmmaker James Gunn, and co-written by his brother and cousin, Brightburn has an impressive superhero pedigree.
It is, however, a horror twist on the genre, that is definitely not for kids.
In the small farming town of Brightburn, Kansas, prospective parents Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle Breyer (David Denman) are struggling to conceive, before a meteor falls from the sky, along with a baby. Blessed by a miracle, they bring the child up as their own.
So far, so Superman. But their adopted son Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn) turns out to not be a big blue boy scout.
After Brandon turns 12, he begins behaving strangely and discovers he has powers including superhuman strength, speed, and heat vision.
At first, the Breyers put his unruliness, which includes a suspension from school for crushing a female classmate's (Emmie Hunter) hand after she let him fall during a trust exercise.
It's an intriguing premise, superheroes have gone bad before, but it's usually within the context of a PG-rated movie rather than a gory horror. However, there's not much more invention in Brightburn.
It follows a relatively expected course, with Brandon's actions escalating throughout, from unnerving recitations, to bloody rampages, despite attempts from his parents and aunt and uncle to (Meredith Hagner and Matt Jones) to counsel him and keep him on the straight and narrow.
It seems a conscious choice by director David Yarovesky to keep things simple.
Brandon's emergence as a threat to humanity occurs through a string of set-pieces that appear ready-made for trailers and marketing campaigns.
While this means the streamlined plot is easy to follow and delivers some satisfying thrills, one can't help but feel that with a little more ambition Yarovesky could've created a film that is more distinctive than the horror by numbers feel that sets in its second half.
In a difficult role for a young actor, Dunn holds the film together well with a suitably eerie performance.
Without his quiet strength, Brightburn is a movie that could have descended into parody territory and farce.
Instead, the show just about stays on the road, helped by the contrast between the muted visuals that are reminiscent of the ones in the first, better act of Zack Snyder's 2013 Superman outing Man of Steel.
All in all, though, Brightburn is an enjoyable 85 minutes, if one that fails to deliver quite the payoff one wants from what could've been a far more interesting and engaging.
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