Main cast: Elizabeth Banks (Tori Breyer), David Denman (Kyle Breyer), Jackson A Dunn (Brandon Breyer), Matt Jones (Noah McNichol), Meredith Hagner (Merilee McNichol), Becky Wahlstrom (Erica), Emmie Hunter (Caitlyn), and Gregory Alan Williams (Chief Deputy Deever)
Director: David Yarovesky
Okay, the evil Superman thing is almost a cliché by now, as most people find that the admittedly rather bland good Superman makes a far more interesting character if he should turn into an unstoppable villain. Brightburn is another take on this trope, with the title referring to the small town from which this version of evil Superman – or rather, Superboy grows up in.
So yes, the whole thing starts in a swimmingly familiar manner. Tori and Kyle Breyer are a married couple living on a farm who can’t have a child no matter how much they try, until one night a meteor crashes into the nearby woods and they find a baby boy amidst a baby-friendly spacecraft. They raise the child, named Brandon, and Brandon is bullied in school and has a crush on Caitlyn, the only person who likes him despite him being a nerd.
And then puberty hits Brandon. He starts… communicating, I think, with the computer in the spacecraft or something, which tells him that he should be taking over this world. He also develops super powers, although extra-sharp hearing is missing from his repertoire or else this movie will only be 30 minutes long… and be better for it. But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s get back to this story. He starts going power-crazy, and good luck stopping a hormonal kid who wants to destroy all that stands between him and his whims.
For a while, I thought they misspelled James Wan on the producer credit, because Brightburn is exactly a D-list addition to the dreadful The Conjuring Universe franchise. It’s all contrived jump scares, one after another, the moment the movie decides to unleash Superturd on everyone. You’d think producer and co-screenwriter James Gunn will go back to his Troma roots and deliver some good gore but no. Superturd instead kills people by boring them senseless first – he will vanish, zipping around here and there in the background as his victim gives a startled yelp while the background track goes “SHRIEK!” at a eardrum-splitting volume, and vanish again as the victim continues to stupidly wander around in a scene that is deliberately soaked in darkness or lit like a stroboscope (people with epilepsy sure are going to have fun here). If I were his victim, I’d probably kill myself first just to end the terminal boredom, as the jump scares are so predictably timed.
There is no sound as the idiot victim slowly wanders around in a dark room, and the camera then pans backwards to show that there is nothing behind the victim. It zooms closer to the victim, pans back again as the sound now slowly mounts, and then, just when I can see behind the victim – SHRIEK! There’s Brandon in that stupid-looking mask of his. Then he’s gone again to repeat the whole mess. Seriously, what is wrong with Superturd? Just kill the victim already, ugh.
The movie doesn’t dwell on Brandon’s character much. At first it is suggested that he may be someone who is turned to the dark side due to bullying at school. Yet, it is revealed subsequently that he is already weird in the head, as his idea of porn stashed under his mattress includes pictures of women on the autopsy table. So who and what exactly is Brandon? It doesn’t matter because once the “scares” begin, Superturd stops being a character and becomes the harbinger of tedious, contrived, non-stop jump scares instead. I don’t even get to see him flying much. Maybe it’s because of budget issues – better to just have people die off-screen or so quickly that nobody has to pay for expensive CGI or practical effects!
The bright spark is the solid performances from both David Denman and especially Elizabeth Banks who play the increasingly conflicted and scared parents. The poor kid playing Superturd doesn’t have much to do other than to give a blank stare at the camera or talk in a “Don’t I sound dead inside?” manner, while everyone else is sort of there to fill up the empty spaces in a scene.
Takes away the “James Gunn is here!” hype, and Brightburn is just one of the turds floating in the broken toilet that is the nonsense called The Conjuring Universe.