The idea of a superhero coming to earth and using their powers to become a supervillain instead in a “what if?” type scenario is nothing new, yet it’s not something that’s ever really been done in Hollywood as outright as it is in the film Brightburn. The movie doesn’t even try to hide the fact that this is a horror take on “What if Superman went insane upon hitting puberty?” and in theory it’s a fun idea to toy with, especially in that genre. The main issue with the movie is it just doesn’t feel like it goes as far as it should with the idea. It scratches the bloody surface (oh, it’s incredibly bloody!) but when it’s over there’s a feeling that more could have been done with it. Almost like it took the road most often traveled instead of pushing the boundaries just a little bit further.
Now that’s not to say the movie isn’t entertaining enough, but even at 90-minutes it sometimes feels a bit sluggish, mainly because it does take a fair amount of time to get to the moment when Brandon Breyer (Jackson A. Dunn) realizes he’s different and instantly begins to use his powers like a crazy person. I’m all for character development, as it actually does help strengthen a film; however, here, we get to know Brandon and his adoptive parents, Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle (David Denman), yet it all doesn’t really matter in the big picture. This is mainly because Brandon isn’t a conflicted protagonist and instead is basically the film’s antagonist who goes from being what seems like an all-around good kid to a super-powered psychopath overnight.
On his twelfth birthday the ship that Brandon landed in as a baby begins sending out a signal that gives Brandon seizures while he’s sleeping, has him hearing voices and causes him to sleepwalk out to the barn where the ship is hidden below the floorboards in an attempt to get to it. Tori finds him that first night and decides to keep it to herself so Kyle won’t get angry. When she finds Brandon he’s trying to open the floorboards to where the ship is being kept, all while the cracks between the floor pulse with a glowing red light. Once she snaps him out of his trance, everything goes quiet and he doesn’t know where he is or how he got there.
So clearly the ship is sending him out some sort of message, but it’s not like Brandon coming back to reality brings back the golden boy version of Brandon we started the film with. Instead, he starts to decipher the words being spoken to him, which are basically telling him to destroy the earth. Once that clicks, it’s basically his mission in life to take out anyone who he believes has wronged him in the slightest, or could potentially lead to any trouble coming his way.
I mean, Brandon going on an evil-Superman killing spree is what we’re watching the movie for and for what we do get to see it doesn’t disappoint; however, it never feels like it reaches its full potential. The movie feels restrained, which could be due to budget or simply wanting to keep the story more confined to a smaller group of people, but it just feels like it could’ve been so much more and taken things to the next level but ends up feeling like it’s holding back and never truly gets to take flight.
Now I know this is a small town, but one of the more frustrating parts of the movie is the sheriff and his uncanny ability to investigate the killings taking place in his town of Brightburn. Brandon leaves a marking at each of the scenes, which kind of looks like two diamonds on top of one another with a line drawn down the middle. Sheriff Deever (Gregory Alan Williams) first finds this drawing on the window of the first crime scene. Brandon covered the windows in his calling card, yet he did so like you’d draw on a fogged-up mirror after a shower, so they all but vanished. Yet Deever somehow saw one of the markings and blows on the window to reveal it. There’s no evidence to say that this is related to the crime at all, as restaurant windows aren’t exactly the cleanest surfaces, yet pictures are taken and he begins to connect the dots from there. It just feels incredibly forced and overall unnecessary.
There’s nothing wrong with the sheriff showing up to investigate, but the character isn’t important and it would’ve just been time better spent having Brandon do more creepy things or start to take things to the next level. It’s almost like we don’t get enough of crazy Brandon, even though he’s like that for most of the film.
As mentioned above, this is a violent movie. There are some incredibly gory scenes here and as sick as it may sound, I actually wanted more of them! The film has a very eerie vibe to it, and director David Yarovesky does a great job of building up that atmosphere. So much so, that when Brandon embraces his superpowers with only self-preservation in mind and puts on his creepy red mask to hide his identity, there’s just this very uneasy feeling that takes over while watching because we know what he’s capable of, and the often innocent humans in his crosshairs don’t stand a chance. Yet however on edge I felt during those scenes, I just felt as though there weren’t enough of them. There’s overkill and there’s underkill, and I feel like Brightburn lands near the latter, where we don’t need to see mass slaughter…yet we also really kinda do.
It kinda feels like just as Brightburn begins to hit its stride it’s over. As cliché as it may sound, it feels like it could’ve used a few more bullies from earlier on in the film that get theirs later, a couple of more innocents that meet their demise as well. Take out the meaningless sheriff investigation (even with how minimal it already is) add another 15 or so minutes to the movie and give us some more crazy Brandon, and something to counter him as well. The lack of a true protagonist or conflict within Brandon is another thing that hurts the story overall.
All in all, this is an entertaining film that’s worth a watch if you’re in the mood to see a hormonal pre-teen Superman decide to use his powers for evil in ultra-violent fashion; yet be warned, Brightburn is comparable to a delicious appetizer that readies you for an even better main course, but once finished, you find out the appetizer was the main course, leaving you somewhat satisfied, yet overall yearning for more.
The movie looks great on Blu-ray. The video transfer is clean, with crisp visuals and while a lot of the film is darker, it’s never muddy and everything is clear at all times. The audio transfer is also really strong, with great surround sound and when the score kicks in it really adds a great vibe while never being overpowering.
Audio Commentary – First up we have an audio commentary with Director David Yarovesky, Cinematographer Michael Dallatorre and Costume Designer Autumn Steed Yarovesky. Overall it’s a fun listen, as we get to hear from the three members of the crew that allow the commentary to hit from all angles of production.
Nature vs Nurture – This is a five minute featurette that sees the cast and crew talking about the film’s plot and themes found within it. It’s a quick watch that’s an easy watch, even though it’s not overly in-depth.
Hero-Horror! – This is a featurette that’s just under five minutes and talks about bringing the superhero genre into the horror genre and how the characters and actors playing the roles help make it work.
Quick Burns Social Vignettes – There are three promotional vignettes here, one from Banks, one from James Gunn and another from Yaraovesky. I always find these things to be added to pad out the special features and make them seem like there’s more than there really is. At this point you’ve either rented or bought the film, so there’s no reason why you’d want to see promotional bits telling you why you should watch it.
Sony Pictures Presents Brightburn. Directed by: David Yarovesky. Written by: Brian Gunn, Mark Gunn. Starring: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn. Running time: 90-Minutes. Rating: 18A. Released on Blu-ray: Aug. 24, 2019.
Tags: Brightburn, James Gunn