The Gunn brothers — writers Brian and Mark Gunn, and producer James Gunn — discuss their upcoming horror film, Brightburn, which has a darker take on the superhero genre
At a time when superhero films have been dominating the box office, the team of Brightburn have shown the audacity to take an iconic superhero origins story and look to create a horror film out of it. Brightburn — in a nutshell — is a twist on the story of what happens if Superman were to have become a supervillain. Written by cousins Brian and Mark Gunn (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) and produced by Brian's famous older brother and Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, Brightburn is set for release this Friday.
Toppling the tradition
Brian Gunn: From the time of Moses through contemporary superhero stories, there is a tradition of childless parents taking in an infant that they find in the wild. These young ones grow up to be noble and heroic figures. But we wondered what would happen if it went the other way and a child ends up as something sinister.
James Gunn: I love this film because it is an entirely new never-before-seen take on the superhero genre. It looks at it from a pure horror angle. It’s also an honest way of arriving at the superhero myth because there’s something terrifying about the idea of a super-powered alien that would come to Earth. Tori, the mother, thinks her son is going to bring glory to the world and help us, but that’s not necessarily the case. Whatever way one watches his character, he is a ghost, a demon child, and we treated the film exactly like that.
From superhero to super-villain
Mark Gunn: 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.
Brian Gunn: We realised that there are many superhero abilities that, if you were on the receiving end of them, would be terrifying. Flying could appear ghostly. Laser eyes would be demonic. Super strength can be horrifying. Lots of super abilities, if you turn them up just a couple of degrees, become horrific to behold.
An eye for horror
James Gunn: He (director Yarovesky) has a real sense for horror, for the musicality of horror, an understanding of how the beats work, how you set up a jump scare, how you get people frightened while they are watching a scene. It is fantastic to watch him work. I’ve always known Dave as an incredibly smart guy who does his homework. He probably watched a thousand horror films before this. He can take them apart and piece them back together in a way. He knows logically what he’s doing.
Parents of the villain
James Gunn: Tori (played by Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle (played by David Denman) have very different ideas of what parenting is. This is a story of nature versus nurture. Is this kid evil or is he becoming bad because his parents just aren’t taking good care of him? What’s the truth there? Kyle believes he’s just evil. Tori believes he can be made better. That’s the real conflict of this movie between those two characters.
The human in evil
James Gunn: Even Brandon, the protagonist -- as bad as he is and as terrible as he is and as alien as he is -- has something very human about him. He isn’t Michael Meyers (Halloween), he isn’t Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street). He is something that we both can relate to and be afraid of at the same time — and maybe be afraid of what parts of Brandon similar to us.