One of my favorite graphic novels is the comic A God Somewhere. It’s about an average beach bum who is a bit Jesus freaky, but nothing too troublesome, that is until an asteroid hits him and he gains superpowers.
At first, he acts as one might think, he tries helping people with his abilities, gaining the peoples’ admiration. But the more he helps, the more the people blame him for not helping them too. Eventually he realizes why should he be helping these people? Why worship a god when he now is a god. People should be worshiping him. Then he goes around the world on a killing spree.
It’s a really great concept. What if Superman was religious and decided he instead was god.
Brightburn plays with those same themes, but the end result left me wanting more. I think my main issue I have with this film is, you take away the superpowers, and you basically have your run-of-the-mill generic evil kid movie like The Prodigy, another generic evil kid movie that came out this year.
Brightburn has this very interesting concept, but I feel it fell short of what it could have been.
I didn’t hate Brightburn, but something felt missing. Something about the movie just wasn’t connecting the way it should have. Maybe it was the writing, written by the brothers of James Gunn. They had a very interesting concept giving us Superman’s origin story, but making him evil.
But that concept just leaves me feeling shorted, like what else you got? Oh, this is it, huh? Okay.
Even the comic Red Son did a similar storyline with an alternate Superman landing in communist Russia instead of the United States.
Let’s get into the plot, again, spoilers for anyone interested in seeing the movie. Just skip down to the bottom to see what rating I gave it.
Tori Breyer, played by Elizabeth Banks and her husband Kyle Breyer, played by Roy from The Office, are having trouble trying to get pregnant. That is until one night a spaceship lands in their backyard.
What was strange about this sequence was we never actually see this happen. We get some house shaking then we cut right to Tori and Kyle raising this little boy. I was worried at first that we might be getting some Man of Steel shit editing.
We only ever see them find the baby through a dream sequence. One thing about me, I hate dream sequences, especially if it’s in a horror movie. Usually that means it’s setting you up for another shitty jump scare or a moment for the director to get “creative”. Which translates to student art film crap.
If you don’t know you’re watching a bad horror movie, count how many dream sequences it has in it, A Nightmare on Elm Street being exempt of course. I’m referring mostly to films like The Boy, where the only time anything scary happens is through a dream sequence.
Brightburn only gives us one of those dream sequences, so I won’t hark on it for too long, but it still upset me that they wouldn’t just show us what happened from the start. It isn’t like him having superpowers is a secret to the audience. We went into this already knowing what the hell this movie is about.
It’s now 12 years later and the Breyer family has a young boy named Brandon. He seems normal enough, just this normal 12 year old kid that doesn’t really fit in because he’s clearly smarter than the other kids at his school.
But clearly there’s still something slightly off about him. One misstep I think was Brandon already knowing he’s adopted. Wouldn’t it be more interesting to find out not only is he adopted but also has superpowers?
I feel that should have been used to help make his personality change a bit more understandable. When the kid turns 12, it’s like a light is switched on and he becomes possessed by an evil spirit.
It would make more sense that he’d also learn these aren’t his real folks, isolating him, making him draw closer to the evil thoughts his spaceship seems to be transmitting into his head.
That’s another thing, I wasn’t clear if the ship was making him evil or if it was awakening something that was already in him… at one point his parents go through his room and find his porn stash, which consists of cut out photos of swimsuit models and dissected animals.
I would have liked if they find that before his birthday, to show that this kid has always been off, they just refused to see it.
It’s hinted at that Brandon might have a thing for his aunt, who is also his teacher. I might have been reading too much into that, I’m not sure. And this was before he went evil. Maybe I’m just looking too hard for signs that this kid was always a weirdo.
There’s also a girl in his class he takes a liking to, who he eventually ends up stalking.
On his birthday he is given a rifle by his uncle and aunt, but gets angry when his dad refuses to let him have it.
Before that, the ship his parents have locked up in their barn has started glowing and whispering strange things into his ear. It’s in a different language, so at first he isn’t sure what it is trying to tell him.
Gradually he starts to decipher it…
TAKE THE WORLD!
After he gets the message, that’s when he goes full on evil kid, with very little to no remorse.
After his parents find his bizarre porn stash, they take him camping where his dad has “the talk” with him. Kyle explains that it’s okay to feel the things he feels. Unbeknownst to Kyle what he’s feeling isn’t exactly normal teen kid stuff.
Brandon shows up in the girl he like’s room one night. But is interrupted by her mom bursting in once Caitlyn, the little girl, begins to freak out.
Ever since the encounter, she has been freaked out by him. She never got a full look at his face, still enough to get an idea of who it might have been. While running a trust exercise with the PE class, Brandon gets pushed to the ground with Caitlyn refusing to catch him. She calls him a pervert, pissing him off even further.
He crushes her hand, resulting in him getting put on suspension and now having to see a therapist, who just happens to be his aunt.
Not learning his lesson however, Brandon shows back up at Caitlyn’s room where he gives her some apology flowers and a promise that her mom wouldn’t be a problem anymore.
Caitlyn’s mom works as a waitress at a real crappy looking diner, the same diner Brandon had his sad birthday party at. As she is cleaning up before closing, Brandon shows up, using the full force of his new developing superpowers.
What follows marks the second film I’ve seen this month that involves yet another gruesome scene with an eyeball. John Wick 3 featured a blade going into an eye, whereas Brightburn features a piece of glass stuck right in the pupil.
Brandon kills her and hides the body, but leaves the diner a mess. Brandon also likes to leave his calling card, his initials back-to-back, made into a symbol.
He’s also scraped together this creepy mask. You know how Superman’s blanket becomes his cape, right? At least I think that’s how the lore goes. Wouldn’t it make sense if Brandon fashioned the blanket he arrived with into that creepy mask?
I kind of feel like we needed a scene like that, how he came up with the idea for the mask. Or him putting it together. It’s a creepy part of his whole ensemble, there needed to be some time in the film where he decides he needs a mask. Maybe after he gets caught creeping on Caitlyn in her room, have a scene of him making the mask so he can’t easily get pointed out in a lineup.
Brandon gets more and more hostile towards his parents, especially once he discovers the spaceship he came in hidden under the floorboards of their barn.
And of course his parents are in denial over all of this. They know they found him in a damn spaceship, they should realize that something is very off about him. The dad Kyle seems to be the only one aware of the change in his kid. I mean, the dead giveaway might have been the time Brandon crushed a little girl’s hand.
But his mom still refuses to see something is wrong, even after she catches him levitating over his spaceship.
The dad even catches him chewing on a metal fork like a stick of gum.
How many more red flags do these two need?
Kyle catches Brandon lusting after their chickens they keep on their farm. After warning him to go back to bed, Brandon returns later that night and rips them apart.
Even then his mom refuses to see anything wrong, Kyle on the other hand is on to him.
Brandon is worried that his aunt might get the police involved after his hand holding mishap, possibly causing him and his parents trouble. So he decides to pay his aunt a visit one night while his uncle is out drinking with Kyle.
Brandon threatens his aunt Merilee. She gets worried and sends him away. Brandon stalks her a bit, looking like he’s going to kill her in her sleep, Noah, his uncle shows back up, catching Brandon in their house.
He gives Brandon a stern warning, but gets thrown across the yard. Freaked out, Noah makes a run for it in his truck.
Brandon chases after him, lifting up the truck and crushing it, leading to Noah’s horrific death.
Of course Brandon needs to leave his calling card again next to the accident.
The sheriff starts to suspect that maybe the symbol is two B’s together as in Brandon Breyer.
Knowing that Brandon had a hand in Noah’s death, Kyle takes him out into the woods to go hunting. But really Kyle means to put an end to this madness by shooting Brandon in the back of the head.
But he didn’t put in account that Brandon might be bulletproof.
Fully pissed off that his dad just tried to kill him, Brandon dons his creepy mask and burns Kyle’s eyes out through the back of his head with his laser heat vision.
The sheriff pays a visit to the Breyer household, wanting to ask Brandon a few questions involving the symbol found at two different crime scenes.
Tori, his mom, refuses to let the sheriff inside to look around, knowing if he did, he’d find Brandon’s creepy notebook graffitied with page after page of not only his symbol but depictions of his murders and his plans for the world. Spoilers, it’s not good.
Brandon returns home and starts flying through the house like a crazy person, freaking his mom out. She calls the police, like they can do anything about stopping this boy who can fly through a house unfazed.
But the cops show up anyway, just to get brutally killed off, turning the sheriff into a blood streak across the lawn and using the deputy as a bouncy ball.
Tori remembers that the ship they have hidden under the barn can draw blood, so she sneaks across to snap off a sharp piece to stab him with. While there, she finds the body of Caitlyn’s mom, she’s been gutted and displayed almost like a sacrifice to the ship.
Tori tries to reason with Brandon, getting him to calm down. When it looks like it might be working, she tries to stab him in the back with a sharp piece of the ship.
He catches her, stopping her from stabbing him in the back, lifting her up into the sky and dropping her to her death.
He then sees a way out of this situation when a passing plane crosses his path. He stages a plane crash, making it look like the crash killed the police and his parents, leaving him as the lone survivor. But of course he had to leave his little symbol behind.
There is a cool little after credits scene, or at least mid-credits scene where James Gunn favorite Michael Rooker shows up as a crazy conspiracy theorist like Alex Jones, warning the masses of supernatural beings are causing trouble. I didn’t recognize the other creatures, but I did recognize The Crimson Bolt from Super, another James Gunn film.
I was hoping for maybe a Slither connection as well, but no such luck.
I enjoyed Brightburn enough that I would say it’s worth checking out, just maybe not in theaters. So it gets a RENT ITrating from me. It did get one jump out of me during one of the jump scares early on. But that was about it, for the most part I enjoyed the acting. Kid actors are always hit or miss and he did an okay job here. The little girl who played Caitlyn however was kind of terrible, so were some of the other kids that showed up.
The film is extremely well shot with several really great scenes. The shot of Brandon taking Tori up into the sky was very well done.
I enjoyed the fact they didn’t hold back on the gore either. He doesn’t kill too many people but when he does, it’s always graphic. The best kill for me being when Brandon burns his father’s eyes out of his head using heat vision.
I’d love to see a fan edit of Man of Steel, with all the kid scenes replaced with scenes from Brightburn. Someone make that happen!
Next week I’ll be reviewing Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
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