Review – Kid of Steel Needs a Spanking (“Brightburn”)

What if Superman, as a child, had grown up evil instead? That’s the premise for this strangely wicked and off-kilter movie, brought to you by the brother & cousin of director James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy). This also marks director David Yarovesky’s U.S. debut in film, although he played a Ravenger in Gunn’s movie.

Imagine, if you will, a world where Superman never existed either in the comics or the movies. Got that? Good. Now let’s go down on the farm in rural Brightburn, Kansas where Tori and Kyle Breyer (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman) are trying desperately to have a baby, but can’t. Boom! A crashed meteor containing a small alien spacecraft lands in their yard containing an infant and, faster that you can say “Martha and Jonathan Kent”, they ‘adopt’ little Brandon as their own. Isn’t that nice? Well, fast-forward 12 years and Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn) is a whip-smart kid in school who kinda likes Caitlyn (Emmie Hunter), his classmate. However, turning 12 and hitting puberty is going to be especially difficult for young Brandon this year.

“Calling to him” from the barn, the hidden spacecraft changes Brandon from a likable kid into a split-personality sociopath. He suddenly discovers that he has super-strength, amazing speed & agility, energy beams from his eyes, can fly, and a severe God-complex. While mommy dearest tries her very best to nurture and support her ‘special’ son as best she can, dad is not so sure about him… especially with all the unusual disappearances and deaths in town. Could it be that their boy is to blame? He doesn’t ACT any different, unless you count being obstinate, feeling zero remorse. and having no emotion over the death of an uncle. Uh-oh.

But just like in the movies The Bad Seed or Village of the Damned, once the truth is revealed, it’s much too late and this kid becomes a force to be reckoned with. Stay for the credits to see what I mean. Written by Mark & Brian Gunn (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island), this movie had SO much potential, but it was it racked by the plot-hole riddled scattershot screenplay, which was filmed in short segments, rather than one straight, cohesive, fluid film. Practically every scene was shot as a separate scene unto itself and then edited all together, giving this movie an awkward feel to it. It almost looks like a student project at one point.

Another bizarre aspect of this movie was the abundant use of over-the-top gore and grisly deaths. Really guys? I would have expected that in some low-budget B-horror zombie film, but here? Not only wasn’t it unnecessary, it was counter-productive. I guess the Gunn’s, lacking in effective storytelling (like James), had to fall back on cheap jump-scare theatrics. Sad. At least the acting was top notch. Banks as the over-protective mother is wonderful, as is Denman; playing it very real. Major kudos to young Dunn in playing his first lead role and nailing it as the psychopathic superkid. I also give props to young Hunter; portraying fear like she did was no easy task, but she hit it out of the park.

David Yarovesky (UK’s The Hive) has occasional brilliance in his directing, much like Josh Trank’s Chronicle. He obviously knows all about gore, that’s for sure! Here he adds some unique imagery, but alot of his camerawork falls back on the mundane and obvious. Like I said, this movie had SO much promise and could have been like a DCU movie on crack, given the fact it was an origin story for an evil Man of Steel. It should have had a Lex Luthor, a Lois Lane, or shown the kid grow up. Maybe a part two in the future? Hmmm.

Village of the Damned (1960)

Ah, children. They’re precious, precocious, and look at you with a stare that can make you do unspeakable, horrible things against your will. Well, that’s the plot in this eerie British sci-fi horror film, adapted from the novel, The Midwich Cuckoos. Trust me, this movie ain’t got nuthin’ to do with any birds!

Something very, VERY odd is happening to the inhabitants of the tiny little British village of Midwich. For half a day, everyone there falls unconscious, as does anyone who enters the village! The military steps in, but after a few hours the villagers all wake up and are all okay. Weird. Oh, but there’s more… two months later, a bunch of women are suddenly pregnant, sparking accusations of infidelity & extramarital sex. Their babies grow at an alarming rate and the women all give birth on the same day. The strangeness doesn’t stop there as all the kids have platinum blonde hair, an unusual appearance, and piercing eyes. As the children grow and develop at a rapid rate, it becomes clear they all have a powerful telepathic bond with one another.

Three years later, Professor Gordon Zellaby (George Sanders), whose wife Anthea (Barbara Shelley) gave birth to one of the children, wants to be the exclusive teacher to these ‘special’ kids, as they are physically and mentally superior to others. Their behavior has even become even more unusual and striking; talking like adults, expressing no emotion like love or sadness, but they CAN read your mind, and force you do terrible things if you piss them off. After a number of villagers are killed by these kids (actually, they make the villagers kill themselves), Zellaby realizes they must be stopped at any cost. The only child he must save, however, is his son David, who has actually has shown emotion and doesn’t conform with the others.

The problem is, trying to assassinate these diabolical kiddies is gonna be tricky, since they can read his mind and will know about that ticking time-bomb in his briefcase. Adapting the novel was Stirling Silliphant (In The Heat Of The Night), Ronald Kinnoch (December Boys), and director Wolf Rilla (Witness in the Dark) and, by golly, they got it right. Chilling, dark, and downright creepy, it excels in comparison to John Carpenter’s 1995 remake with Christopher Reeve & Mark Hamil. Shot in glorious black & white, this movie starts out nice and slow, building up its tension and drama. The best part about this movie (and I’ve said this before) is the British film superiority of marrying script, camera, and cast together for an impeccable film.