‘Brightburn’: The child from the spaceship is no Superman

The premise is intriguing, but this gruesome origin story plays like just another slasher film with idiots for victims.

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Jackson A. Dunn plays an alien child adopted by an Earth couple in “Brightburn.”

Screen Gems

“I will never [betray] our son.”

“He’s not our son! He’s something we found in the woods!” -- Mom and dad arguing in “Brightburn.”

Meet the Breyers of Brightburn, Kansas.

They just might be the Dumbest Couple in America.

When a UFO crash-lands on their property and they find an infant from outer space in the craft, rather than running inside, locking the doors and dialing 911, they take in the child and raise it as their own.



Screen Gems presents a film directed by David Yarovesky and written by Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn. Rated R (for horror violence/bloody images, and language). Running time: 90 minutes. Now showing at local theaters.

The kid never bleeds, never gets sick, never suffers any kind of injury. Sure, he LOOKS normal, but come on, Breyers: Aren’t you just the least bit curious and concerned about this human-looking being from another planet?

When the “boy” turns 12, he starts acting out in ever more violent ways.

He fills a notebook with gruesome drawings.

He crushes and breaks the hand of a classmate.

He levitates and his eyes go red.

He wears a creepy mask and makeshift cape.

He tears the door off a chicken coop and turns the chickens into bloody chicken potpie. (Sorry. But it’s really disgusting.)

He throws dad against the kitchen wall.

He displays no emotion when hearing a beloved family member has died.

And yet Dad and Mom (especially Mom) remain in a state of denial, to the point where we’re almost wishing for the little demon to REALLY act out so they’ll finally face reality.

Produced by James Gunn (“Guardians of the Galaxy”), written by Gunn’s brother Brian and his cousin Mark, and directed with admittedly gruesome style by David Yarovesky, “Brightburn” is a nasty twist on the superhero origin story — a kind of inside-out version of the “Superman” legend.

What if the baby adopted by Kansas farmers turned out to have superhuman strength, to fly and to emit deadly lasers from his eyes — but he used his powers for evil instead of good? What if the kid turned out to be more frightening than the little bleep from “The Omen”?

That’s basically the deal here.

Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle (David Denman) had been trying for years to conceive (we know this because of a lingering shot of fertility books on the shelves), so when alien baby lands practically on their doorstep, they don’t ask any questions. They lock the spaceship-thingee away in the barn, and tell everyone they’ve adopted a baby boy they’ve named Brandon.

The kid seems relatively normal and sweet until he turns 12 — but then all of a sudden he starts hearing a deep, mechanical-sounding, movie-villain voice in the dark of night, and becomes possessed with violent urges and a need to eventually take over the world. (That’s gonna make it tougher to make friends, Brandon.)


Tori (Elizabeth Banks) starts to realize her extraterrestrial son might have issues in “Brightburn.”

Screen Gems

One has to give director Yarovesky and the special effects team credit for creating some memorably horrific, hard-R kill scenes, designed to make you groan and daring you to keep looking at the screen.

And yes, there’s something intriguing about that premise. (It’s a little bit reminiscent of a brief series of comics that imagined a world in which baby Kal-El’s ship landed during the Cold War, on the land of an American foe.) And Jackson A. Dunn does fine work as the creepy Brandon, who remains expressionless as he eats his morning cereal and chews up the fork for good measure.

But the Breyers are SUCH idiots. Tori’s sister and the local cops aren’t much brighter, either. It’s almost as if Brandon has to shout, “Are you people not paying attention!”

Clever trappings aside, “Brightburn” is filmed mostly as a horror movie, with the monster lurking just around the corner or pounding on the door as the dopey victims behave just like all the other dopey victims in forgettable slasher films.

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