Brightburn is a Return to James Gunn’s Roots

Producer James Gunn and star Elizabeth Banks talk about their new horror origin story Brightburn.

Elizabeth Banks in Brightburn
Boris Martin/Sony Pictures

The new movie Brightburn asks a provocative question while combining two of the most popular film genres around: what if a powerful being — the kind we usually refer to as a superhero — came to Earth and was not interested in protecting humanity but destroying it?

That is the unique take on both the superhero and horror genres provided by the film, which stars Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games) and David Denman (The Office) as a young married couple who, while struggling to conceive a child on their own, feel themselves blessed when one lands on their farm inside an alien vessel.

At first Brandon (Jackson Dunn) seems like the perfect child and their lives couldn’t be better. But as he reaches puberty, the vessel he arrived in calls out to him — and the message is definitely not “They can be a great people…they only lack the light to show the way.”

Produced by James Gunn, directed by David Yarovesky, and written by Gunn’s brother Mark and his cousin Brian, Brightburn touches on the genre that James Gunn himself has been working in most recently (with the Guardians of the Galaxy films and, next up, The Suicide Squad), while going back to his roots as a horror filmmaker.

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“For whatever reason, maybe I’m just an overgrown child, but I love superheroes and comic books,” says Gunn. “And being able to come at these stories from angles that we didn’t necessarily expect. And I think comic books have really led the way because there have been a lot of dark superhero stories in comic books, but not so much in film. And being able to tell this story for audiences all over the world was a lot of fun.”

For Banks — who last worked with Gunn on his gory 2006 horror outing SlitherBrightburn also touches on notions of parenting and whether the “nature vs. nurture” question can come into play when one is raising a superbeing. “I thought this movie was very sneaky in that it addressed fears that all parents have,” says the actress and director (Charlie’s Angels). “Just this idea of like, you don’t know who your kid is going to become, you don’t know what amount of responsibility you have, nature vs. nurture…I thought this was an interesting exploration of all those ideas in this package of a superhero gone bad.”

We’ll have more from director David Yarovesky, plus stars David Denman and Jackson Dunn, in the next couple of days. Brightburn is out in theaters this Friday (May 24).

Don Kaye is a Los Angeles-based entertainment journalist and associate editor of Den of Geek. Other current and past outlets include Syfy, United Stations Radio Networks, Fandango, MSN, RollingStone.com and many more. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @donkaye