Brightburn poses one simple question: what if a child for another world with special abilities arrives on Earth, but instead of becoming a beacon of hope for mankind, decides to wreak havoc instead?
Elizabeth Banks and David Denman play Tori and Kyle Breyer, a married couple desperate for a child, who live on a farm in the small American town of Brightburn. One night, a meteorite lands in the woods behind their house. Inside the glowing red meteorite is a baby boy, who the Breyers decide to take in. Twelve years go by and little Brandon Breyer has grown to become a model student, who gets picked on by a school bully and has a crush on a classmate. Normal schoolboy stuff.
That is until an interaction with the capsule that took him to Earth, which the Breyers kept hidden in their barn. Brandon starts hearing voices in his head, and discovers that he is unlike anyone else he’s ever met.
As a concept, “Smallville-for-supervillains” is a very interesting one, with endless possibilities. The movie itself doesn’t shy away from setting up big expectations either. But don’t expect to see Evil Superman with this one, moderate that to “kid with anger management issues gets superpowers.”
What Brightburn really is, is a slasher film where the villain has flight and super strength. And one that’s hard-pressed to find inventive ways to create scares out of that. It’s extremely repetitive, more often than not its scares are either the camera showing Brandon, panning away, and then panning back to see that he’s gone, or a jump-scare teed up by a moment of silence. Brightburn has one shocking moment of gore, which is in one of its only genuinely intense moments, but aside from that hardly anything else in the movie stands out.
The movie was made on a relatively small budget of $7 million, and the strain of stretching that budget is apparent in the finished product. By and large it makes for a more grounded and realistic world, but certain moments of tension, including the climactic moment of the film, are hindered by inadequate special effects or by simply not showing Brandon doing the things the movie says he’s doing.
One saving grace of the movie is how it shows the Breyers reacting to Brandon’s abilities and his growing penchant for violence. Tori and Kyle’s attempting to handle what at first was simply a misbehaving son before that situation rapidly grew beyond their control, a situation caused by their decisions and the secrets they kept, is easily the most compelling part of the movie. But this was often pushed to the sidelines, as Brandon takes primary focus.
Brightburn attempts to flip the superhero origin story on its head, but does nothing inventive with that idea, using a unique horror character as not much more than a crutch to make cheap scares and wasting the potential of an intriguing premise