The Breyers, Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle (David Denham) are getting ready to possibly do the first step in having a baby one night in 2006, but then an unexpected meteor shower ends up falling a hundred feet from their isolated barn and earthquakes their house not quite to the ground, just like it was not quite scary enough for them to run to the authorities and put their safety over their curiosity. They go and discover a little boy in one of the meteors, which is actually a ship. They’ve found an alien, and Tori decides, saying it was fate something this fantastical(ly) impossibly strange occurred to them. They raise the boy into a kid named Brandon, who’s now twelve and does not have any friends at school but knows as much about the difference between wasps and bees as Calvin knows the anatomy of dinosaurs and the best ways to make peanut butter sandwiches alongside Hobbes. But one night he ends up drawn to the cruiser Tori and Kyle have kept locked away all these years, and when he’s told where he actually came from, ballistic cataclysms commence.
Upon some light thinking and hearing opinions of other reviewers, it seems Brightburn’s intention was to make us think about toxic masculinity, and the film at least reminds us of people we see who we cannot imagine could be so heartless to do what they do. But the movie is so vacant in believability and reference to real life experiences that it just ends up being another sadistic horror movie, except it’s completely inept this time. Outside reviews of this film have been decent, but in my opinion, I’d keep everyone you know away from this 90-minute barnyard tornado.
Look, is the acting good? Yes, all the actors are good at displaying pain and fear. Are the mangled bodies gasping out blood effectively viscous and realistic-looking? Yes. The movie is well shot and the makeup is realistic. But I’d rather watch an ugly delight than a beautiful chamber pot. Brandon ends up doing really horrifying shit to all sorts of people in this movie, but none of it started off as the victim’s fault. Actually, even worse - it’s hard to see a starting provocation for any of this. We as the audience are left to imagine why Brandon ends up doing what he’s doing and there are some hints his biology and connection to the machine where he came from has something to do with it - but nothing’s conclusive, like this is a story based off of a well known comic book (which it’s not). We’re left to imagine but we actually really want to know, so we can get some grassroots upon the reasoning. The issue of toxic masculinity is a very important topic, maybe one of the biggest ever. These days, as a guy, I’m perfectly fine with saying “masculine” is now a dirty word. But besides the fact Brandon’s a preteen, there’s nothing here that suggests he simply wants more power in the world and wants to be masculine. Without anything to suggest to parents how to better treat their children so they don’t grow up to be psychopaths, and without anything concrete to base these attacks, we’re left with nothing but Brightburn playing target practice with undeserving aim-goals.
We aren’t even told exactly why Brandon ends up drawn to the spacecraft (yes, I know it’s a part of who he is). What I mean is, we don’t know why he was at this specific instance. This movie was short, so there was room to explain without making me tired out. It felt like I missed the first 100 pages of some book I was reading, and I hate it when movies try to be anonymous like this. It’s one thing to annoy me when it would be so easy to clarify, and it’s another when it doesn’t come off as strange but just unintentionally lazy and carefree. People have been describing this as an evil Superman-origin story. So maybe if you’re familiar with that story, which I’m not, perhaps you will get it, because you assume it’s parallel in that regard anyway?
Let’s also discuss the action. Horror is actually tough to do tediously, because like it or not, jump scares and the process of building up to one is often effective at at least keeping our attention. And the possibilities of what can happen fill up our worries as well. But there are so many times where someone sees Brandon one second from somewhere, and the camera flips away from him and he’s gone like a book thrown into lava, to the point where I lost count. It made the action predictable, without any suggestion it was going to go different this or the next time, and predictable is never something action should go for. So what does this teach about handling children? That all children want to bring misery upon someone? Watch Angela Anaconda instead (in my opinion a very underrated cartoon for kids who can handle a little bit of close-up and bizarre shots). That you should always love your kid, no matter what happens? Didn’t really get that vibe by the end. That you shouldn’t doubt someone’s tendencies, because of who or how old they are? Not a very optimistic message. The ending holds possibilities of sequel ideas in the air, and all of them sounded a lot better than what we ended up getting, and the advertising was way off.
Brightburn takes one idea and executes it the worst way substantively, humanely and cinematically possible, a dungeon of violence mixed with the sour smell of vacancy in any other department.