A normal kid from outer space turns out to be more than a handful in this daft, really unpleasant horror opus.



Puberty blues: Jackson A. Dunn 


Be careful who you adopt. In fact, Kyle and Tori Breyer are just plain stupid for bringing up a baby they found in a crashed spacecraft. Yet the child they call Brandon grows up to be a relatively well-balanced – if preternaturally well-informed – boy, who looks like a young Paul Dano. Then he hits puberty and all hell breaks loose, more or less literally…


At first a comparatively ordinary and generic chiller, David Yarovesky's Brightburn – named after the Kansas town in which it is set – starts to get really weird at the halfway mark. However, it’s a shame that so little human texture is afforded Brandon’s parents, ably played by David Denman and Elizabeth Banks. All we know about them is that Kyle runs a large dilapidated farm (that houses just a few chickens) and that Tori spends her spare moments painting some truly terrible pictures.


Likewise, Brandon’s evolving powers are entirely mysterious, moulded merely to fit in with whatever shock effects the CGI department demands at the time. Nevertheless, there is something strangely unsettling about the film, mirrored in the expressionless gaze of Jackson A. Dunn. His Brandon has no friends and as little backstory as his parents, although we do learn that the porn he keeps under his bed is of sexy models without clothes, without skin and even without bones. Truly, Brandon’s interests are visceral.


All this might have amounted to something genuinely frightening, rather than unnerving, had we had characters that weren’t just ciphers. When Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton adopted their son from the bottom of the garden in Disney’s The Odd Life of Timothy Green (2012), the result was equally banal, although the 12-year-old CJ Adams was a little more wholesome. But the message remains the same: be careful what you wish for and if you can’t conceive, go to a human adoption agency.


For its sheer nastiness, Brightburn may appeal to undemanding horror buffs, although it’s in dire need of some style and a dash of black humour. However, the soundtrack is an asset, with its own distinctive stamp, suggesting something more on the scale of Avengers: Infinity War than a $9 million horror flick. But the film does not end on a satisfactory note, concluding with what looks like a hopeful overture to a whole new franchise.




Cast: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn, Matt Jones, Meredith Hagner, Gregory Alan Williams, Jennifer Holland, Steve Agree, Becky Wahlstrom, Christian Finlayson, Emmie Hunter, Michael Rooker.


Dir David Yarovesky, Pro James Gunn and Kenneth Huang, Screenplay Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn, Ph Michael Dallatorre, Pro Des Patrick M. Sullivan Jr, Ed Andrew S. Eisen and Peter Gvozdas, Music Timothy Williams, Costumes Autumn Steed.


Screen Gems/Stage 6 Films/Troll Court Entertainment/The H Collective-Sony Pictures.

90 mins. USA. 2019. Rel: 19 June 2019. Cert. 15.