Superhero horror is now a thing, with producer James Gunn giving the Superman story a bloody jab in the eye in Brightburn.

Gunn was subverting the superhero genre long before Guardians of the Galaxy was a pitch at Marvel, in his violent indie satire Super (2010). And let’s not forget he interned at schlock studio Troma and also scripted the Dawn of the Dead (2004) remake and the recent The Belko Experiment (2016).

It makes sense then that he’s the force behind this mash-up of slasher film, superhero origin story, and evil child flick.

Infertile couple Tori and Kyle Breyer (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman) receive a gift from the heavens – literally – when a spacecraft containing a seemingly human baby boy crash lands in the woods behind their farmhouse.

Fast forward 12 years and the boy, Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn), is a sweet and quiet kid with an aptitude for classroom science, until the onset of puberty and a strange summons from the spacecraft hidden in his parents’ barn unleashes his true nature as a super-powered psychopath.

Great power comes with great responsibility. So does raising an alien child, which Brandon’s obtuse folks discover far too late. Scribbling strange symbols, crushing a classmate’s hand and slaughtering chickens is just a warm up to stalking the titular town in a cape and creepy scarecrow mask, exacting bloody revenge on those who’ve wronged him.    

Tapping parental nightmares and sending superhero tropes to hell, Gunn and director David Yarovesky’s novelty project is a modest, concisely crafted shocker that ultimately owes more to The Omen than Superman: The Movie. With atmosphere to burn, some effective jump scares and a couple of wildly gory set-pieces, Brightburn is a lean and mean genre experiment that horror fans will find comfortingly familiar.

In cinemas: May 23, 2019
Starring: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn
Directed by: David Yarovesky