CREDIT: Boris Martin/Sony Pictures

Starring: Jackson A. Dunn, Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Matt Jones, Meredith Hagner

Director: David Yarovesky

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Rating: R for Alarmingly Gory and Sadistic Violence

Release Date: May 24, 2019

“What if Superman, but evil?” sounds like a pretty slam-dunk pitch for a superhero horror movie, doesn’t it? Brightburn isn’t an official offshoot of the Man of Steel, though it does hew closely enough for me to wonder if any copyright lawyers need to get involved, considering that it’s about a childless couple living on a Kansas farm who adopt a superpowered baby boy who falls from the sky. This isn’t the first story to propose this sort of switcheroo, as the 2003 comic Red Son (in which Superman is raised in the Soviet Union) and the ’70s SNL Uberman sketch (in which he grows up in Nazi Germany) come to mind. But while those examples suggested that a superbeing’s environment is key, Brightburn comes down squarely on the nature side of the Nature vs. Nurture debate.

Brandon Breyer (Jackson A. Dunn) has two loving and devoted parents (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman), but they mean nothing in the face of a spaceship that sends him telepathic messages to conquer Earth. Brightburn is most effective as a horror mashup of slasher and bad seed flicks, as Brandon quickly turns sadistically bloodthirsty as he discovers his abilities. But ultimately, the film is not equipped to work as a subversion of the superhero narrative. Once Brandon’s parents realize his intentions, it is clear that they (along with everybody else) are no match for him. In the desperation to present some sort of counterattack, Elizabeth Banks is required to deliver some pathetic dialogue that nobody could possibly salvage in the face of such an impossible-to-defeat opponent. The balances are all off-scale, and only little stinkers who want to watch the world burn could enjoy the resolution offered here.

Brightburn is Recommended If You Like: Twisted takes on superheroes, Saw, Slashers at their gnarliest

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Laser Eyes

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