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Brightburn

Anti-heroes have been popular for decades. The rugged individual who, whilst saving the day, doesn’t necessarily follow the rules to get there. There are also those who have the veneer of heroism although are anything but. The comic book ‘Watchmen’ and the online series ‘The Boys’ are good examples of shady heroes. ‘Brightburn’ is another with its reverse take on the Superman mythology offering up a hero few would want saving them.

Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle (David Denman) are a married couple desperate for children. Having no luck via various means, their prayers appear answered when a mysterious spaceship crash-lands near their home. Inside is a baby boy who they name Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn). Claiming him as their own, as he gets older they notice his special powers setting him apart from others. Unfortunately his teenage years sees a sinister change with Brandon’s dark nature gradually walking the path of evil.

‘Brightburn’ is the anti-Superman. Those tired of superhero niceness and virtue should enjoy this flick. It isn’t exactly original and nor is it completely memorable. But it has a script peppered with enough dark overtones to make it fascinating viewing. How a super-being chooses to use their gifts is starkly realised with the mix of horror/drama generally working.

The central trio of performances make ‘Brightburn’ shine. Banks is especially good as a mother refusing to believe her son’s guilt. Dunn as the sinister Brandon exudes genuine menace with the moody atmosphere refusing to disappear until the end credits. It would be an interesting movie to have a sequel to as charting this wicked super-being potentially compelling.

‘Brightburn’ packs a lot in its brisk runtime. A Marvel or DC comics superhero yarn this isn’t. It’s an antidote to those stories with a fearsome hero cutting a swathe amongst his more humble brethren.

Rating out of 10: 7

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The Babadook

The most effective horror films are those relying on silence. There’s no need for a bombastic, loud music score or tons of CGI to create scares. Fears taken from the mind and the quiet edge of madness waiting to erupt can be far scarier. Written and directed by Jennifer Kent, the lower budgeted Australian movie received high acclaim in 2014. It’s easy seeing why due to the endlessly atmospheric script and amazing performances sure to haunt you long after the end credits roll.

Amelia (Essie Davis) is a widow exhausted looking after her hyperactive young son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Trying her best to raise him, she is continually perplexed by his irrational fears. One of them is fictional story-book Mister Babadook, a creature preying on those who accept his evil presence. When sinister events start happening, Amelia and Samuel are put in grave danger as the Babadook’s claws reach from beyond the deathly shadows.

Like many good films in the genre, ‘The Babadook’ can be enjoyed on several levels. Primarily it’s about grief and its consequences. When a sudden loss occurs, a period of personal stagnation can happen. While Amelia loves her son, her unending grief prevents her from functioning as best as possible. The Babadook represents her powerful grief as its black shadow increases the more she grieves. Davis and Wiseman give fantastic performances, conveying genuine emotional range.

‘The Babadook’ doesn’t forget to be scary amidst its themes. It heavily relies on a chilling atmosphere with only the occasional slice of CGI thrown in. Kent shows commanding use of camera techniques and uses the urban environs in which the characters live to good use. It’s a credit to her craftmanship she doesn’t rely on cheap ‘jump scares’ with her determination to deliver true thrills evident.

All involved should be proud of ‘The Babadook’. Those liking these types of movies should be in their spooky element. It’s worth checking out especially at night where these films come alive as much as ‘The Babadook’s deadly embrace.

Rating out of 10: 8

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