David Yarovesky’s ‘Brightburn’: A Review

Elizabeth Banks and David Denman in Brightburn

There’s a quote which I no longer no where I heard it: ‘The only difference between horror and comedy is the lighting.’ I didn’t bother remembering because i thought it was some iconic bon mot like that Mel Brooks line about comedy and tragedy. Apparently not, no matter how I search it’s not appearing anywhere online. I think it was a podcast, and I know it’s been in my vernacular for at least five years — pretty much a lost cause at this point.

I bring it up because I use it a lot, an explanation for a certain kinda film that isn’t bad exactly — it’s just unintentionally very successful at being something other than the creator wanted. The joy I find is not cynical, or at the expense of the movie or the folks who worked on it, it is an earnest appreciation of craft outta control.

Because the statement has some truth, even if it is too tortured to be understood without a lot of explanation. Both comedy and horror work at their most basic level on setup and punchline, establishing a ridiculous scenario that builds to the gag ain’t all that different to how a creepy situation builds to a jumpscare (just about the only type of scare this flick does well).

Here’s what far too many straight directors of splatter, slasher, torture-porny horror movies don’t get. There’s a wonderful intrinsic campiness to the money shots, the woman’s eye exploding here, or the reveal of the shattered jaw, they are lurid and sensuous and vivid, so over the top and so honestly laid out.

The pleasure of watching pain is just about the only thing this film is honest about. It’s a gag right from the very start, performed by a clown whose deadpan expression only makes everything more otherworldly. And not otherworldly like the central villain, this movie does not take place on a recognisable Earth.

Falling into its strange rhythms is hard to resist. The kid in the title role is utterly perfect in his stilted, blank faced, delivery; his growing rampage a cruel joke played on his saintly parents, too dumb to realise what’s going on until it’s too late. There’s a scene in a house with a motion detector in their back garden, you’d think the lights would be enough, but every time they light up a disembodied voice intones ‘motion detected: back yard’ and the hilarity of this incomprehensible situation builds and builds.

By the time we’re invited into a lair, blood smeared in cryptic markings around a disembowelled corpse, it’s like the culmination of four different things and it’s riotous.

There’s legit points in this movie where I just applauded the screen.

I mean, it’s not good. But when did a film ever have to be?

Brightburn is currently screening in UK cinemas.

Three Stars
Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

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