Starring: Jackson A. Dunn, Elizabeth Banks, David Denman
Director: David Yarovesky
Running Time: 90 mins
Brightburn is an American film about a young boy who begins to discover he has other-worldly, superhuman powers, which he uses to lash out at those around him, creating terror for his friends and family.
We all know that there’s nothing scarier than malevolent children in horror movies. Think Village Of The Damned, The Innocents, The Exorcist etc. At least, that’s the case if it’s done right, and Brightburn doesn’t always work that classic horror trope to its full potential.
There are positives and negatives to this story, focusing on a young boy who, more than being possessed by a malevolent entity, is himself a malevolent entity, proving a particularly menacing villain through the whole film.
However, the story isn’t only about the boy, instead focusing heavily on his parents, played by Elizabeth Banks and David Denman, whose world falls apart as they see their son become ever stronger with his devastating powers.
That’s where Brightburn really sets itself apart from the crowd, because rather than simply focusing on being scared by a malevolent child, the movie looks deeper at the effects of such a scenario on those around the boy, in this case his own parents.
As a result, Brightburn sets itself up to be an emotional rollercoaster, with a devastating insight into the minds of parents who begin to turn against the boy that they love and have fought to protect every step of the way. Except, that’s how it should have been.
For the most part, Brightburn does well at providing a menacing and atmospheric horror story, but it really doesn’t capitalise on the potential of its unique take on a classic genre trope. As captivating as the premise sounds, Brightburn never really grabs you by the throat with emotional drama, too often falling back onto horror and violence to really catch your attention.
The benefit there is that the film certainly doesn’t hold back when it comes to violence. The visual horror here is sparing, but very heavy when it comes along, and that definitely plays a big part in making young Jackson A. Dunn’s character such a menacing presence throughout.
However, particularly as we move into the final act, Brightburn seems to be all too content with using that violence as its only playing card, without really getting to the emotional crux of the boy’s parents’ devastating ordeal, which becomes more and more distressing as the story builds to a crescendo.
As the characters begin to fall apart from distress, you’re left there seemingly having missed the boat, unable to fully connect with their terror because the film didn’t do enough in its earlier stages to make you fully sympathise with their situation.
As a result, Brightburn feels like a film that has a lot of potential, but just isn’t executed perfectly. It has its strengths, with a good atmosphere, a menacing young villain, good performances and striking violence, but the film’s main terror is nowhere near as effective as it should be, lacking the emotional punch that the premise was so ripe for. So, that’s why I’m giving Brightburn a 7.1 overall.