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David Yarovesky’s Brightburn is sort of underrated, and I suppose that’s better than being overhyped. Still, I do recommend checking this movie out. Like Amazon Prime’s The Boys or even the good old-fashioned X-Men, Brightburn is a solid reminder that superpowers would be scary. After all, aren’t people potentially deadly enough as is? Give them any sort of power and some of them will surely abuse it. In that respect, I think nearly any story with such thematic elements wins a point or two. It actually is food for thought, and nourishing food at that.

I hesitate to call Brightburn a genius movie, but it is intelligently done. For example, parents Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle Breyer (David Denman) immediately hide the spaceship their son Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn) arrived in. While this is similar to Superman’s origin story, it ends up taking dark turns before very long. The parents seem to know the townspeople wouldn’t be so delighted to see that bizarre ship. Also, the Breyer family attempts to lead the life of a “normal family,” but it’s inevitably a tale of a bizarre family gone awry. Normal discipline cannot work with a child who knows he’s invincible, can it? While I don’t know if this qualifies as cult films, a story of a superpowered maniac has its appeal.

Rating: R. Definitely an R

Many movies can be rated R for mild violence. Hell, even some considerably violent films get a “hard PG pass.” However, there’s no denying that Brightburn is an R-rated and ultimately bizarre funhouse ride. While X-Men’s Logan delighted in dropping F-bombs at every opportunity, Brightburn ends up heavily caked in blood and some disturbing images. Horror fans should not be too disappointed. In fact, this movie has some gross-out moments that’ll make you say, “Offensive language who? Sexual content what?” The violence is effective and definitely part of the story. Think of a young, superpowered Ted Bundy.

‘Brightburn’ Avoids Being Too Nerdy

I’m capable of being nerdy here and there, so I’m not going to judge too much. Still, I appreciate this movie for not layering on endless superhero and sci-fi themes. They are present at times, but it’s not exactly an homage-fest. It is a supervillain movie that stays down to earth. At no point does Brandon re-enter his ship to be pursued by a group of space pirates, or any corny shit like that.

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The baby and ship have a bizarre connection, but it’s more Satanic in nature than anything related to laser-blasters and space mutants. Brightburn is on its way to somewhere else. It’s more “Omen-style than Jedi-style. One could imagine Brandom drafting some Death Star plans, but this is no Skywalker, Obi-Wan, Yoda, Wookie cookie-cutter rip-off clusterfuck.

Brightburn’s Possible Kryptonite

This movie experiments with the effects of power on the human mind. Or does it? There are signs throughout that Brandon may be possessed by soem evil force outside of himself. Honestly, I think this movie loses something because of that. You see his twisted pictures that he draws, but at times one wonders if they’re coming from his own mind or that wretched spaceshit. What caused him to hear the music of evil and dance? What allowed him to open a door, to pass that point of no return? I would like to think it was the nature of his power itself, or the idea that “No one can possibly stop me if I misbehave!”

However, that possible message gets confused with all these weird whisperings of evil scattered throughout. At that point, I’d prefer if he slipped and fell on the floor, triggering an accidental shift in personality after a brain hemorrhage (or something like that). Instead, audience might say, “Oh, Brandon is possessed by the alien space-demon by now. Okay.” See the difference? This also opens the door to the movie becoming cheesier in a sequel. Maybe he sees numerous alien planets, and also a David Hasselhoff-type confronting him about his evil ways.

Maybe the Hasselhoff-like hero can have a similar backstory; While playing around with the alien world, he gains his power and ultimately, an android. In other words, a sequel could very easily lose its horror edge by being too mystical and magical, or even too immersed in superpower dynamics. It’s a bit of a tightrope.

Final Thoughts: Where Brightburn Burns Brightest

This movie successfully blends a Superman-esque origin story with a “Don’t open the cellar door” vibe, while threatening to re-open the stab wound we’ve received by years of unworthy-hero worship. In reality, Superman is dead to some of us, and probably deserves it. The Fortress of Solitude falls into ruin and leaves him depressed, because being too self-virtuous and powerful is an easy pathway to villainy (which, interestingly, is why Batman fought Superman anyway). A real Superman would surely have many former friends and a growing supply of enemies, whether he’s earned them or not. After all, isn’t that why the identity’s secret to begin with?

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These elements are lightly brought out here. In the movie itself, Tori, the loving mom, grants her child all the love and respect she can muster, but it’s not going to be enough, and it almost leads her to covering for his abuses. His dream come true is everyone else’s nightmarte, and the couple is not to live happily ever after. While the idyllic newfound “normal” life seems true at first, reality spills out, leaving everyone distraught and in mortal danger. That’s right with the horror tradition, and this movie’s more original about it than some critics are giving it credit for.

What are your thoughts on Brightburn? Let us know in the comments!

Movies n TV

Suburban Screams, Cursed Neighborhood

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Episode five of John Carpenter’s Suburban Screams was one of the best kind of horror stories. It is a dark, eerie tale of a mean house that is determined to destroy anyone who dares reside within it.

The story

Our story begins in 1682. A group of colonists are attempting to take over land that is very much not theirs. When the colonists are killed, they vow to curse the land.

Fast forward to modern times, and the land in question is a little suburban neighborhood. Carlette Norwood moves in with her husband, mother, and daughters. The house seems like a dream come true. Until, of course, their beautiful dream home becomes a nightmare. The curse of the colonists wrapped itself around the neck of each family member, turning them into people that they didn’t recognize. People who don’t exactly like each other.

What worked

While I wouldn’t say that the acting in this episode is flawless, it was several steps above what we’ve seen so far. Every actor seemed to understand their role and reacted in realistic ways. I was especially impressed by the young woman playing Angelique. She had the good sense to not overplay the role, giving each scene exactly the right amount of energy.

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Of course, there was one actress who way overplayed every scene. But rather than being terrible, it was terrific. And that was Chloe Zeitounian, who played the neighbor Stacy. Stacy the neighbor was creepy as shit. After an unnamed neighbor dies by suicide, Stacy shows up at Carlette’s house with a bottle of champagne, sipping coffee with a big old smile. Well, okay it probably wasn’t coffee.

Stacy was a fantastic character, and I hope there was a crazy neighbor just like her. I bet her house was haunted as hell, but she just decided that her ghost was like a stray dog that everyone else thinks is dangerous. She probably put a bejeweled collar on the colonist ghost and renamed him Kori spelled with an I on purpose.

Finally, I want to talk about the theme of ancestral curse and ancestral protections that this episode discussed.

Charles County was cursed by the colonists who took the land that rightfully belonged to the indigenous tribes. They took what their ancestors had given them, and left a curse in their wake.

At the end of the episode, Carlette talks about being protected by her ancestors. Ancestors that survived horrible things most of us can’t imagine. I am sure that their strength blessed Carlette, and helped her to save Angelique.

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What didn’t work

While this episode was certainly better than most of the season, it wasn’t perfect. The thing that most stood out to me as being frankly unneeded was the inclusion of maggots attacking Brian.

Paul A Maynard in Suburban Screams.

In multiple scenes, during which Carlette is narrating, Brian has maggots coming out of open wounds. Never once does Carlette mention a maggot issue.

It feels like there is a clear reason why the creators did this. This story doesn’t have a lot of blood, gore, or jump scares. And a core goal of horror content is to cause a reaction.

Stephen King has a great quote about this goal. “I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I’ll go for the gross-out. I’m not proud.”

The inclusion of maggots in this story admits that someone involved didn’t think the story was terrorizing or horrifying enough. But it was. The story was freaky all on its own without the inclusion of our wriggling friends.

Is it true?

This might be an unpopular opinion, but aside from the completely unnecessary maggots infesting Brian, I think this episode is the most honest and accurate one so far.

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The thing about hauntings is that they’re seldom what we see in the movies. Haunted houses don’t have glass vases flying off shelves and wallpaper peeling to reveal 666 painted in blood over arcane symbols. Haunted houses dig into the minds of those who live there, causing bad luck and bad vibes. And that’s exactly what happened here. There are no massive explosions. No spirits throwing people downstairs or demonic dogs chasing children from the attic. This house dug into the hearts and minds of a loving family, ripping them apart.

So yes, I do think this episode is likely true.

The further we get into Suburban Screams, the more I enjoy it. This episode was eerie, upsetting, and riveting. I hope that Carlette and her daughters are healing from this horrific journey. And I’m thankful to them for sharing their story. 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

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Happy Father’s Day Herman Munster!

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Herman Munster would be so proud, collage by Jennifer Weigel
Herman Munster would be so proud, collage by Jennifer Weigel

Today for Father’s Day I want to celebrate one the best dads in horror ever: Herman Munster! Herman Munster of television celebrity is a perfect example of a good father in a genre awash in epically horrible parents. He is fun to be around, cares deeply about family, and has a huge heart. He is essentially the naive and loving Frankenstein’s monster despite his horrific appearance, and is aptly employed at a funeral home.

Herman is lovable, hardworking, and always ready with the physical humor dad jokes, even if he is too naive to catch on to his role in the punchlines all the time. He is devoted to his wife Lily Dracula and son Eddie and will do whatever he can to protect them. His generosity extends beyond just his own, with the family taking in his niece Marilyn (who is painfully normal by comparison to the Munsters), and father-in-law Grandpa.

Portrayed by Fred Gwynne, Herman Munster is kind of the epitome of the good father in horror. Sure, he’s a brute, and can be a little dim sometimes, but he’s really just a big teddy bear at heart, and always ready for a good laugh. And apparently Herman Munster was even nominated by his son Eddie for Father of the Year in Season 2, Episode 25, so it all comes around full circle. If the show highlight doesn’t load, you can find it here.

And to celebrate more great Hollywood celebrities, here’s a poem for Ed Wood and an homage to Theda Bara

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Suburban Screams, The Bunny Man

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Someone is stalking the children of Fairfax, Virginia. He comes bearing an axe. He comes from the forest. He comes in the night.

He comes dressed as a bunny.

The story

In the 1970s, the sleepy town of Fairfax Virginia was menaced by a man dressed as a rabbit. He stalked kids and teens with an axe while they were playing in the woods, or ‘parking’. Children were cautioned to not play outside after dark. Parents were terrified. The whole community was rocked by the horrific killer who, well, didn’t kill anybody. And who might have been a whole bunch of people inspired by a truly sad tale?

Still from Suburban Screams The Bunny Man.

The story begins a hundred years earlier. A man whose name is lost to time is accused of stealing a cow. For this crime, he’s sentenced to death because things were a lot tougher back then. The man escaped but swore vengeance on the town. A few days later several children were found hanging from a bridge underpass, butchered and hung as though they were slaughtered rabbits.

What worked

The biggest thing to love about this episode, the one thing that sets it apart from the rest of the season, was the presence of Historian Cindy Burke. Finally, we have an actual professional talking about one of these stories. Yes, there are still first-hand accounts. But that is how these sorts of stories work best. We have the emotional retelling of evocative survivors. But we also have a professional who is emotionally separated from the situation backing up these stories with historical knowledge.

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This wouldn’t have mattered as much in any other setting. But Suburban Screams has been clear from the start that it wants to be seen as a documentary. This is supposed to be real. And if you’re going to claim that your ghost story is real, bring receipts. As many as you can.

If we’d seen more historians, detectives, and police reports through this series, it probably wouldn’t have the bad rating it does on IMDB.

What didn’t work

Well, it might still have had a bad rating. Because the acting in this episode was, for lack of a stronger word, terrible.

I don’t know if it was the directing, the casting, or just a weak talent budget. But not a single person except for the man playing the Bunny Man could act in any of these dramatic reenactment scenes.

The worst offender was probably the child playing Ed’s childhood friend. This character was way overacted. It’s as though the child had seen a parody of how little boys behave, and was told to act like that. As this was a little boy, he was likely a bit embarrassed.

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And I know, I’m trash-talking a child actor. I’m trash-talking all of the children actors in this episode. But children can act. There are lots of examples of kids doing great acting jobs. Stranger Things is an obvious example. Violent Night is another. The kid can act. These kids couldn’t act.

Is it true?

Unlike most of the other episodes in this series, The Bunny Man is a story I’ve heard before. It is a legitimate urban legend that blossomed from a few firsthand accounts of madmen doing scary things dressed as rabbits in Fairfax County, West Virginia. These events probably inspired others to do stupid things like dress up like a rabbit and run around with an ax. Much like the people who decided to dress up like clowns and scare the hell out of people across the country in 2016.

So, yes, the Bunny Man is very much real. He’s real in the hearts and minds of pranksters and West Virginia frat boys. And he is based on some very real, very upsetting, actual events.

I honestly wish the whole season of Suburban Screams had been exactly like this. Filled with facts, first-hand accounts, and proof of scary events. This was everything I wanted in a supernatural/true crime story. So if you’re giving the rest of the season a pass, I would suggest watching this episode.

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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