“Brightburn” Movie Review


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     How presumptuous were Jonathan & Martha Kent the day a young boy arrived via spacecraft near their Smallville home in assuming the alien child would grow up and stand for the greater good?  Director David Yarovesky essentially turns the tables on the beloved “Superman” storyline and imagines a different outcome in “Brightburn”, a nightmarish super villain origin story written by Brian & Mark Gunn.  The resulting film mixes together numerous call backs to the famous DC superhero with the blood splattering gore of an 80s horror B movie.  Put it this way, famed makeup effects artists and horror legends like Rob Bottin, Rick Baker, Tom Savini will certainly respect the creative ways the filmmakers depict the extreme violence and death Yarovesky and his collaborators stage as our young antagonist breaks very bad.

     Kyle (David Denman) and Tori Breyer (Elizabeth Banks) are a young couple living in a rural Kansas town called Brightburn, who long for a child of their own.  In the opening scene, they are startled as an object crashes in a field near their home at night.  When they investigate, a baby is found within the wreckage, leading them to believe their desperate plea to become parents has now become a reality.  Now if the story went through the standard timeline we as audiences are already accustomed to, then we would already know the path this young boy would eventually take, but when the film moves forward ten year later, it becomes evident there are serious problems on the horizon. 

     Yarovesky introduces Brandon Breyer (Jackson Dunn) as an awkward middle schooler who struggles to fit in with his classmates.  He’s really smart and has a tendency to display his encyclopedic knowledge in class, but socially it would appear many of his peers do not know what to make of him, which is typically demonstrated by jokes being made at his expense.  The situation at school only becomes more complicated when Brandon takes a liking to girl, Caitlyn (Emmie Hunter), who shows empathy towards him that is mistaken for something more.

     At home, his mother and father start to notice things as well.  Lately, Brandon has been sleepwalking at night and ending up at the barn where the Breyer’s store the craft Brandon arrived in as a baby hidden behind closed doors.  The light which emanates from the ship is a bright red that can be seen through the walls of the structure and is a direct call back to a similar green light coming from the barn on the Kent’s farm in “Superman”.  But the similarities don’t stop there, as Brandon’s red blanket on his bed wraps around him like a red cape when he exits his window in a hypnotic state, or the line uttered by Tori to Brandon telling him  “You were brought here for a reason” echoing the same line Jonathan Kent once told a teenage Clark Kent.  

     But unlike the good behind Superman’s past, the energy drawing Brandon to his ship is clearly utilizing him for an entirely different purpose.  And when people begin to notice his strange behavior and act on it, the evil power within him unleashes in a manner that transforms “Brightburn” into an all out horror film.   Unfortunately, this is where Yarovesky abandons the creative plotting he had established in earlier scenes and instead stages a series of jump scare infused scenarios where really dumb people find themselves alone and at the mercy of Brandon’s latest revenge killing.  Even when the murders begin to add up, the small town law enforcement officer, Sheriff Deever (Gregory Alan Williams), is slow to react, particularly when mounting evidence points directly at Brandon.  And the clincher is when both Kyle and Tori realize at exactly the same time that raising an alien baby may not have been the brightest of ideas.

     This is where the parents and two close relatives try to handle the situation, but as you may guess, given the brutal nature of this story, things don’t work out well for any of them.  With each grizzly murder, Brandon begins to realize the extent of of his super powers, leading to a standard horror film climax featuring copious amounts of blood and fury unleashed.  But what we never learn is why he was sent to Earth or where he comes from.  In fact, other than a few odd drawings his mother finds under his bed, the story doesn’t delve into his motives or what is driving him specifically.  If he was brought here for a reason, then what is that?

     Yarovesky paces the film in frantic fashion, clocking in what should have been a complex character study into a brisk 90 minutes.  Because of this, many of the scenes in the first act feel choppy and incomplete.  As if the relationships needed to be fleshed out and the characters more developed in order to give their eventual death real meaning within the story.  But instead, the filmmakers seemed to be more interested in having fun with the death scenes and giving the audience a squirm inducing look at what would happen if a super being arrived on Earth to use his considerable power for evil purposes. It’s certainly an interesting take on the story, even if it suffers from being a bit misguided at times.  GRADE: C+