This story contains major spoilers for Brightburn, including a discussion of the ending.
In the same way do-gooder vigilantes and mysterious villains obscure their faces, superhero movies often wear disguises. Whether the film is dressed up like a quippy hang-out comedy (Thor: Ragnarok), a stark neo-Western (Logan), a clever found-footage thriller (Chronicle), or a contemplative family drama (Unbreakable), the mask usually comes off in the final act of the story, revealing that it was actually another comic book movie all along. Inevitably, the narrative demands of the origin story or the larger cinematic universe flatten the other genre elements at play. Brightburn, the unapologetically gruesome new horror movie about a boy with extraordinary powers, is no exception.
Working with broken-off shards of Superman lore and the creepy-kid atmospherics of The Omen, Brightburn is always attempting to do two things at once -- and often with mixed results. The fertility books on their bookshelf make it clear from the beginning that Tori Breyer (Elizabeth Banks) and her husband Kyle (David Denman) both want a child, but their baby-making plans are disrupted when a glowing red object plummets from the sky and crashes right in their farmland in the town of Brightburn, Kansas. The objects ends up being a spacecraft with an infant inside, suggesting it was an escape pod from another world. Like Ma and Pa Kent in various Man of Steel tales, Tori and Kyle decide to raise the child as their own. What's the worst that could happen?
After a quick montage of home-videos, we cut to 10 years later, and Brightburn answers that question in detail. As the boy, named Brandon and played by actor Jackson A. Dunn, enters the early stages of adolescence, he starts to realize that he might not be just another corn-loving Midwesterner. In one of the movie's most effective and unsettling sequences, he struggles to start a lawnmower and ends up tossing it across the yard with his super-strength. Curious about his own powers, Brandon sticks his hand right in the rotating blade of the upturned machine. Instead of getting his hand cut off, he bends the blade and breaks the mower. No more yard work.