At a time when comic book superheroes dominate the pop culture landscape, the filmmaking team of Columbia Pictures’ Brightburn: Son of Evil saw a unique opportunity to use the long-held tropes of the genre and turn them on their head to create a terrifying horror film that would feel entirely new.
The idea originated with the screenwriting team of cousins Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn. Brian, younger brother to Guardians of the Galaxy filmmaker James Gunn, had worked with Mark on a range of movie and TV projects throughout his professional career stretching back nearly 20 years. Together, they hit on the notion to tell an extreme story in which a couple’s worst fears about their child come true.
“There’s a tradition that goes back to Moses up through contemporary superhero stories about childless parents who take in an infant that they find in the wild,” Brian Gunn says. “Those figures grow up to be noble and heroic, but we wondered what would happen if it went the other way and this child ends up being something sinister.”
Initially, the script was a slightly more modest take on the premise, written to be made on a micro-budget. Director David Yarovesky (The Hive) and executive producer Simon Hatt thought it had far grander potential. They pictured an unrelenting, straight-ahead horror film rooted deeply in the comic book iconography that has come to feel so familiar to moviegoers, one that would yield non-stop surprises and scares.
“They encouraged us to play up the superhero element even more than we had in our original script,” Mark Gunn says. “To put superpowers in a horror context seemed really fun to us—it was an opportunity to mix together two different genres that hadn’t really been mixed together before.” Adds Brian Gunn: “We realized that there are many superhero abilities that if you were on the receiving end of them would be terrifying. Flying could appear very ghostly. Laser eyes can be demonic. Super strength can be horrifying. Lots of super abilities, if you turn them just a couple of degrees, become grist for horror.”
“I, like many people, grew up watching superhero movies and fantasizing about what it would be like to have super powers,” director Yarovesky concludes. “When I imagined it, it was always so much darker than what I see in movies. I wanted to make something that was closer to my heart. I wanted to go all in on scary.”
In Philippine cinemas May 29, Brightburn: Son of Evil is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. Use the hashtag #Brightburn