'Brightburn' Is a Tribute to the Director's Mom and "Parents of Weird Kids"

"They thought I was a weirdo." Director David Yarovesky opens up about his love for superheroes and desire to make the "anti-superhero movie."

When David Yarovesky laughs it sounds like Lex Luthor cackling at Superman’s demise. So it’s no surprise when he tells Inverse he grew up weird before eventually directing the anti-superhero horror movie Brightburn.

In a bygone time that preceded the billion dollar esports industry, horror conventions, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Yarovesky’s devotion to comics, games, and horror movies made him an outcast. It was only by the love of his mother, who defended her son from the parents of other kids, that Yarovesky now has a breakout horror film opening worldwide.

“They thought I was a weirdo,” Yarovesky recalls about his childhood. Memories of wearing Freddy Krueger t-shirts and playing Vampire: The Masquerade — a gothic spin on Dungeons & Dragons — rush back to him over the receiver.

“I knew I wanted to make scary movies. I used to cover my friends with fake blood and shoot movies in my backyard. It scared teachers and parents of people who knew me. My mom would tell them, ‘He’s just creative, he’s different. He’s gonna do special things.’”

Decades later, after directing his freshman horror film The Hive (2014), Yarovesky read the script for Brightburn from Mark and Brian Gunn. Suddenly, the director recalled every moment his mother stepped up for her weird boy.

“I drew a lot from my relationship with my mom,” he says. “I wanted to thank her for believing in me. This movie is proof she was right.”

While Brightburn is notably a riff on superhero origin stories, to Yarovesky, “The emotional core of this movie is about a mother and a son.”

Elizabeth Banks Brightburn
Elizabeth Banks adopts an alien son who becomes a superhuman monster in 'Brightburn.'

Out in theaters on May 24, Brightburn is a dark twist to the origin tale of DC’s iconic superhero, Superman. When an alien pod carrying an infant crash lands on the farm of a midwestern couple (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman), the two adopt the child as their son, Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn). Years later, when Brandon hits puberty, he discovers command of awesome powers, and an inner voice compelling him to destroy the world.

A lifelong fan of superheroes and fantasy like producer James Gunn (director of the Guardians of the Galaxy for Marvel), Yarovesky says Brightburn is made with nothing but love for the popular genre. But he’s deeply suspicious of the Superman mythos that’s stuck around pop culture for 80 years.

“This movie is made with heart and love towards superhero movies,” he says. “James spent the last god knows how many years making superhero movies because he’s passionate. Me too. But this is the anti-superhero movie.”

“This is a mash-up,” adds Yarovesky, who wanted to take everything he loves most “about horror movies and superhero movies and combine them into one nightmare tornado.”

Despite his love for the genre, Yarovesky is also deeply suspicious of Superman, arguably the archetype all superheroes are molded from.

Brightburn David Yarovesky
David Yarovesky (left) and Elizabeth Banks (right) on the set of 'Brightburn.'

“We’ve been raised in a world where we’re supposed to believe that if an alien baby lands in a forest, everything will be fine,” he says. “I don’t believe that. I think everyone should question the sources that have told us that’s okay. If an alien lands, and it looks like a baby, do not raise it. Run for your life.”

More than just evoke the works of idols Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson — “They were my heroes,” he says — Yarovesky hopes Brightburn restores gore back to horror. The biggest “kills” in Brightburn are as brutal and graphic as a fatality in Mortal Kombat.

“I’ll take Mortal Kombat as a compliment,” Yarovesky says. “I like my horror movies with teeth. I like them to shock and scare me in ways I did not expect. I also look at Game of Thrones, a broad show that has brutal kills. I felt horror movies haven’t explored that in a while. I thought it was time to go back to that. I grew up on movies like that.”

Elizabeth Banks Brightburn
Banks and Dunn, on the set of 'Brightburn.'

It’s all thanks to Yarovesky’s mother that Yarovesky gets to make movies like Brightburn, films that pay homage to his influences.

“When I saw the script, when they’re like, Your son’s special, I really related to that,” Yarovesky says. “I wanted to tell that story, to honor my mom. Releasing a movie worldwide, it’s a thank you to her and a thank you to parents of weird kids who believed in us when the world didn’t.”

Brightburn hits theaters on May 24.

Media via Sony Pictures