“Take the world.”
Brightburn is a 2019 American superhero horror film directed by David Yarovesky and produced by James Gunn and Kenneth Huang.
In 2006, Tori and Kyle Breyer are living in Brightburn, Kansas. When a spaceship crashes near their farm with a baby boy inside. The couple decide to take him in and name him Brandon. They hide the spaceship in their padlocked barn cellar. Twelve years later (after a normal, loving childhood), the ship begins transmitting an alien message, leading Brandon to discover he has superhuman strength and invulnerability. He sleepwalks to the barn and tries to open the cellar, chanting the craft’s message, but Tori intervenes.
Nearing puberty, Brandon becomes disobedient and disrespectful. Celebrating Brandon’s birthday at a diner, his Uncle Noah and Aunt Merilee give him a hunting rifle, which Kyle refuses to let Brandon have, and Brandon causes a scene. This makes Kyle force Brandon out of the diner and leave with Tori.
Kyle suspects something is wrong with Brandon, and Tori finds photos of lingerie and swimsuit models, surgical diagrams, and graphic photos of human organs in Brandon’s room. On a family camping trip, Kyle has an awkward talk with Brandon about sexuality and masturbation, telling him it is okay to occasionally act on his sexual urges. That same night, Brandon, presumably using superhuman speed, travels to the house of his classmate Caitlyn, hiding in her room until she notices him. Returning home, Kyle notices their chickens are terrified by Brandon; that night, Kyle finds the chickens slaughtered with the coop’s locked door torn off its hinges. While Tori suggests a wolf attack, Kyle insists Brandon was responsible.
During a trust fall exercise at school, Brandon falls when Caitlyn does not want to touch him. Brandon crushes her hand in retaliation and is suspended, requiring him to meet with his Aunt Merilee, the school counselor. Later that night, Tori interrupts Brandon as he levitates above the open cellar, chanting the ship’s message, and he falls and cuts himself on the spaceship, the first time he has ever been injured. Tori reveals the truth about his arrival on Earth, and Brandon leaves, finally understanding the ship’s message: “Take the world.”
Brandon visits Caitlyn, who tells him that her mother, Erica, has forbidden her from talking to him. A masked Brandon stalks and murders Erica. Merilee, concerned about Brandon’s lack of remorse, tells him that she is required to report his progress to police. Brandon tries to intimidate Merilee at her home, but she sends him away.
Unbeknownst to Merilee, Brandon dons his mask and stalks her through the house until she goes to bed. Noah comes home to find a masked Brandon hiding in the closet and threatens to tell his parents, prompting Brandon to lash out. Terrified, Noah tries to escape in his truck, but Brandon lifts and crashes the vehicle, killing Noah and draws a symbol on the road in Noah’s blood.
Will Brandon escalate even further to killing a loved one? Can he be stopped? Watch and find out.
Clearly inspired by Superman, Brightburn’s concept surrounds the “what if” scenario in which Superman is evil. A simple idea we’ve all debated and one that’s executed really well. Brandon’s powers are equal to Superman’s and therefore the deaths are brutal. Not only that but they’re very inventive and shocking, with the addition of impressive and realistic effects, each one had me recoiling in disgust.
The acting is very convincing and I enjoyed the parents’ realistic approach to each situation. They tried not to jump to conclusions but weren’t blind to the obvious or naïve. I’m not sure what they expected when they kept an alien baby and its ship, perhaps they should have tried to destroy it instead of hiding it away.
A big negative for me is how fast paced and rushed the movie is. Brandon doesn’t slowly discover his powers, it happens very suddenly and goes from 1 to 100 in a matter of minutes. He pretty much instantly becomes a murderer and it’s a little much. Although he’s clearly brainwashed or even possessed by the pod, it would have more effective to be a much slower burn.
Over all, I love the concept and thought it made a refreshing horror movie. Although it’s not original per se, the different take is and I enjoyed watching it play out. Perhaps they could have fleshed it out by explaining Brandon’s origin and created their own mythos but it is what it is.