While much of the marketing of this movie focused on the well known director of Guardians of the Galaxy James Gunn, it was actually from two of his relatives who wrote the screenplay and it was given to director David Yarovesky, friend of the Gunns who directed the 70’s inspired music video for Guardians of the Galaxy starring David Hasselhoff and not a whole lot else. The movie itself is quite obviously a “What if?” story as in “What if Superman didn’t grow up to be a hero, but grew up to become a villain?” It’s a story that has been done before in the comics, and to a certain extent Chronicle also covered similar ground, but this takes it into full blown horror movie territory. That turns the movie into something quite different, and yet it was still relatively predictable as to what direction it was going. Despite that, it was still a creepy, fun ride.
While there have been quite a few superhero movies that delve into horror territory, there have been very few that have gone as far into the suspenseful and gory horror that this movie does. There is a slight sense of dread throughout the film with tense scenes showcasing Brandon and his oddness in such a way that he feels like a potential serial killer. He’s just a potential serial killer who also has most of the powers of Superman. We get to see a brief glimpse into how he’s slightly bullied at school, but the film immediately undercuts his bullying with a compassionate girl friend. He also is highly intelligent as shown when he over-answers a question about wasps in a not-overly-subtle correlation as to the wasps who get other insects to raise their young just like the unknown alien race gets the film’s couple to raise their young. As the film progresses, he becomes more emotionless and analytical towards those around him, especially the girl he likes and eventually even his parents who become more distrustful of him.
What this film really sells itself on is the correlation to Superman. Brandon came to the planet in a spaceship in the middle of the night in a small town in Kansas where he was found by a couple who were trying to conceive a child but weren’t able to. As he discovers his powers, he has invulnerability, super strength, super speed, flight, and heat vision. He likely has heightened senses but those were never explicitly visualized, nor was x-ray vision or super breath. He was in the spaceship with a red blanket which his adopted parents used for his baby blanket and he even later fashions it into his supervillain costume. He even has an alliterative name Brandon Breyer. It’s the frequent reveal of these similarities that help keep the film interesting past the typical horror movie set up and pacing.
As an actual horror movie, the film struggles a bit. The actor that plays Brandon, Jackson Dunn does a great job at showing both the typical kid as well as the serial killer in the making, emotionless alien who is partially being controlled by his alien ship that tells him to take the world. The high points are the extreme moments of gore, though they are relatively few and far between. There are really two big, well done moments of gore. The first one is when fluorescent lights shatter above a woman’s face. One of the shards of glass gets stuck in her eye and she has to pull it out with a brief gush of blood. The second one is when Brandon attacks his Uncle in his pickup truck. He lifts it and smashes it into the ground, causing his Uncle’s jaw to become nearly severed by the steering wheel and we get to see that jaw hang loosely as he chokes on his own blood. There are a couple moments when Brandon’s parents finally turn on him, but by that point it was fairly obvious that this film wasn’t headed for a happy ending so the failures of both parents were expected and honestly became a little laughable rather than tense. Instead of wondering whether a bad thing was going to happen, it was more a question of what Brandon would ultimately do for his retribution which removes the tension and dread that should be present in a horror movie.
This movie ends up falling in an odd place. Strictly speaking as a horror movie, this does a few slightly different things in making the villain be a kid and an unstoppable, super powered, evil kid. But on many of the other horror elements, it falls flat. As a superhero movie, the parallels are there and it plays with them in a few fun and creepy ways, but it almost doesn’t go far enough to make it something spectacular. Instead, we get something that falls somewhere in the middle of the road. It has horror elements, especially gore, it has a few twists and turns, but it just missed the mark for a lot of people. I enjoyed the similarities and the different direction, and while I anticipated the villain’s victory at the end of the film, I still enjoyed watching how it played out for the most part. I’m curious if this will get an expanded supervillain universe sequel that it teases at the end, especially as it includes James Gunn’s Super, and I would definitely give them a chance. I just hope that they push this concept further and don’t do another retread of this film. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.