Brightburn uses a cunningly simple premise – what if Superman, but evil? – to chillingly simple effect. It’s less a superhero film (or an anti-superhero film) than an ‘80s-esque slasher spinning off from its superhero origins, revelling in scares and suspense rather than attempting satire.
Oh, sure, there are the obligatory and obvious feints at Superman mythology and iconography, but there are just as many references to classics of the horror genre; director David Yarovesky is clearly a fan of the original Friday the 13th franchise.
More importantly, Brightburn does enough to feel like its own film rather than purely a genre pastiche. It’s not precisely original, granted, but its blend of scares, truly gnarly gore and the occasional joke fits in perfectly to any upcoming slasher film marathon, and thanks to Elizabeth Banks boasts a better performance than you’d find in its neighbours.
Brightburn’s a fair distance from great, however. It’s biggest weakness is that its screenwriters – Brian and Mark Gunn – split the difference between ‘entitled, creep brat with superpowers’ and ‘malicious force from an alien civilisation’ without really committing either, to the film’s detriment. They can co-exist, but I wish it had chosen one and leant harder into its ramifications.