After more than a decade of the Marvel universe and the numerous DC Comics films of recent years, the idea of flipping the concept of a comic book origin story on its head and turning it into a horror movie sounded appealing. “Brightburn” could have been fun.
It’s anything but. This film, which is a mashup of Superman and “The Omen,” is a sadistic film about an entitled little monster with a superiority complex who murders those who look at him the wrong way and seems to take extra pleasure in brutalizing women. Sound fun?
The film is extremely thin on story. It opens by introducing us to a couple, Tori and Kyle (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman), who keep trying and failing to have a kid. The opening shot is their bookshelf, which gives the indication that they have purchased every book ever offered on Amazon on how to get pregnant. A loud crashing noise occurs and we cut to 10 years later.
Tori and Kyle now live happily with their awkward young son, Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn). Although we are supposed to believe he is 10 years old, he and all of his classmates appear to be closer to 15. He seems like a sweet enough kid, that is, until he realizes one day that he has superhuman strength – that loud crash at the film’s beginning was apparently some sort of spaceship carrying infant Brandon that landed in Tori and Kyle’s wooded backyard, a plot thread barely developed.
Soon after his discovery, Brandon begins acting like a maniac. He stalks a young girl in his classroom, creepily sneaking into her bedroom at night. When his affections aren’t reciprocated and she calls him a “creep,” he crushes her hand. Seemingly not enough of a response, he then attacks her waitress mother at the diner where she works, and we’re subjected to the nastiest close up of a pierced eyeball since Lucio Fulci’s “Zombie.”
Brandon tells his aunt, a guidance counselor, that he is superior to the people in his life – or just people in general – and “special.” As more and more people begin to notice what a sinister little shit he is, the bodies pile up – a man’s jaw is nearly torn off by a truck crash caused by Brandon, several cops are obliterated, a corpse is found with intestines oozing out and a guy’s face is burnt off by the lasers that shoot out of Brandon’s eyes.
The picture is a brief 90 minutes, just enough time to pile on the grisly effects and surely not enough time to develop the story or the characters to the point that we care about them. And a glowing red light emanating from the family’s barn that appears to have been spliced in from a 1980s straight-to-video movie and is accompanied by a voice demanding that Brandon “take the world” is, well, don’t even get me started. The film’s ending suggests a possible sequel – God forbid. “Brightburn” doesn’t burn bright. It’s a dim bulb.