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Brightburn: Crazy New Trailer Teases James Gunn's Superhero Horror Mashup

What if Superman were a serial killer?

That is the jaw-dropping question posed by the new trailer for Brightburn, the James Gunn-produced horror flick dropping in a few short months. The spot was posted this morning to IGN's YouTube channel, and be warned: it contains moments that may make you cringe.

Gunn has been talking up the project, written by Brian and Mark Gunn and directed by David Yarovesky (The Hive), for nearly a year. Before the seismic event that was his firing from the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise last year, Gunn penned a cryptic Facebook post in which he announced that he had found the perfect vehicle to reunite him with Elizabeth Banks, the star of his breakout film Slither (2006). "Many of you know Elizabeth Banks has been one of my close friends ever since she starred in my directorial debut Slither," the director/producer extraordinaire wrote. "What most of you don't know is that we have tried repeatedly to team up again since that time — or, more accurately, I have tried to get her to do something in almost every movie I've made since then, but the project was never exactly right for her."

"But about a year ago," he continued, "my brother Brian, my cousin Mark, director David Yarovesky, producer Simon Hatt and I started coming up with an idea for a horror film that excited me in a way nothing outside of Guardians has in years — it was personal, and different, and perfectly suited for our times. And, yes, terrifying."

Gunn offered no further details at that time outside of the fact that the project would shortly begin shooting. The first trailer for Brightburn, released in December, teased the flick's simple but brilliant premise; this new spot offers a more in-depth tease of its plot, and dear reader, we are of the opinion that we may have a stone-cold classic on our hands.

The film stars young Jackson A. Dunn as Brandon Breyer (gotta love the comics-style alliterative name), whose origin may seem a little familiar: after an alien craft crash-lands near a farmhouse, he's discovered among the wreckage by kindly couple (Banks and David Denman, Logan Lucky) who take him in and raise him as their own. Before long, the boy begins to demonstrate superhuman abilities — but that is where all similarities to the Man of Steel's origin story end, and the abject horror begins.

The spot opens with Brandon asking, in voiceover, a simple and plaintive question: "Mom, who am I?" She replies that the boy is a gift, as we see the circumstances surrounding his arrival on our planet. "We believe that you came here for a reason," she continues — and she may be right, although it's probably not the reason she had in mind.

We see the boy, at perhaps 10 years old, sketching a distinctive double-B symbol repeatedly in his notebook — his initials, and also symbolic of his school, which is called Brightburn. "You are different," his mother's narration intones, and it's obvious that these differences make him stand out from his peers in a not-so-good way. He's seen being bullied and pushed to the ground by a group of kids; one little girl protests that "he's a creep" to a teacher, before the man orders her to give Brandon a hand up. She does, and it does not go well for her.

This apparently results in an office powwow between Brandon's parents and the girl's, who "want him in handcuffs," but it is not to be. "Maybe there is something wrong with Brandon," we hear the boy's father suggest, while we see the kid getting a good idea of just how different he is: warily approaching a piece of dangerous farm equipment, he sticks his hand into a spinning blade — and breaks it, while his hand remains unharmed. A sly smile creeps over the boy's face, and we get the distinct feeling that he's not thinking about truth, justice, and the American way.

There is then conflict between the boy's adoptive parents; his mother asserts that she will never turn against their son, while his father angrily points out that he is not, in fact, their son. Then, a trip to the lunchroom at Brightburn, and this is where the trailer — to paraphrase the great Roger Ebert — may make you squeam.

A hapless lunch lady wanders into the seemingly empty room, with its fogged-over windows covered in dozens of iterations of Brandon's double-B symbol. A light above her inexplicably shatters, lodging a shard of glass in her eye, and holy moley, we actually have to watch her pull it out. The woman seeks refuge in a walk-in cooler, but its steel door is no match for Brandon; he splits it down the middle as if wielding a high-powered torch, before crumpling it like paper. We see the kid standing at the cooler's threshold, wearing some kind of supremely creepy headgear... and then he attacks, moving with Flash-like speed.

The parents are paid a visit by the police, whose line of questioning apparently prompts them to investigate their son's room. In his notebook are some seriously disturbing drawings, depicting him as some kind of terrible god, and we hear him say in voiceover, "You're the only people in the world that know how special I am." This cuts to the site of a horrific airplane crash, and we see that double-B symbol smeared on the fuselage in blood as a newscaster's report informs us that there were no survivors among the craft's 268 passengers. A series of quick shots show us the powers with which Brandon wreaks his mayhem, and you can probably guess what they are: flight, heat vision, super strength. "Whatever you've done," we hear the boy's mother telling him, "I know there is good inside you." The spot's final, quick shots suggest that she is decisively wrong, as the cop from earlier meets a grim end and the boy punches kid-sized holes in the family home like a human bullet. "I wanna do good, Mom," we hear him say. "I do." Cut to black.

In a year that looks to be stacked with quality horror — with Jordan Peele's Us, a new Annabelle flick, and It: Chapter Two all on tap, to name a few — Brightburn looks like a dark horse contender to make a splash as big or bigger than those hotly anticipated films. In recent years, horror flicks have been guaranteed box office bank; superhero movies, even more so. Leave it to Gunn and his awesome collaborators to put two and two together, and give us what could very well be a superpowered fright fest for the ages.

This May will be an extremely crowded month for genre films, with Detective PikachuGodzilla: King of the MonstersJohn Wick: Parabellum, and Disney's live-action Aladdin all opening that month. But we have a feeling that Brightburn will offer a little Memorial Day weekend surprise: it hits screens on May 24, and if you ask us, all those other flicks had better keep a wary eye on Brandon.