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  • Jeremy Sheffield

10 Movies to Watch After Brightburn

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There is something so profoundly horrifying about this simple idea: what if Superman started off evil? That is the pitch for the new horror/superhero film Brightburn. It is the origin story of a young man (?) that is starting to come into his own, realize that he is special, and begin to use those powers for evil. You will need to watch the film to see how dark the movie gets, but it should satisfy your horror and gore needs.

After watching the film and having a few moments to think about it, I started putting together the list of films that would either prepare you for the horrors of an evil child taking over or to pass the time until a Brightburn 2 comes out. I want this film to make enough money so that we can experience a dark superhero world, but until then, here are some movies that either highlight evil kids or a darker Superman.

This is not a ranked list. The numbers are just for keeping count of the films on the list.

1. We Need to Talk About Kevin

When it comes to pure evil materializing in the form of an adolescent, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a top 10 contender. Tilda Swinton plays Eva, a mother that has never been able to connect with her son, Kevin. Kevin is played by three different actors for three different distinct age ranges. What is really memorable about the movie is how unrelenting the lovelessness is in this film. You never really know if it was nature or nurture that made Kevin the way he is. Whatever it was, it is the perfect recipe for creating a monster.

2. Superman vs. The Elite

We know Superman as the wholesome entity from another planet that only wants to protect humans, for some reason. It would be unthinkable for him to do anything that would even fall into a gray area. Superman vs. The Elite explores the idea of what it would take to push Superman from being the All-American from Kansas into being a killer. Some fans have felt a little bit betrayed by this portrayal of Superman while others thought that it didn’t go far enough. It opens up a lot of ethical and philosophical questions about morality and justice. It’s also just nice to see a darker side to our hero.

3. The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane

At the ripe old age of 13, Jodie Foster starred in a very creepy horror film called The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. It was actually one of 5 films that she starred in in 1976 along with Taxi Driver, Bugsy Malone, Freaky Friday, and Echoes of a Summer. Jodie plays a 13 year old that is seemingly living all alone in a house that her family just moved to. Neighbors and the landlady keep coming by the house to meet the rest of the family, but Jodie Foster keeps giving them the runaround. I will throw in a few trigger warnings for this film: it has some uncomfortable sexual scenes and something terrible happens to a hamster. As far as evil and unhinged child movies goes, this makes it easily on the list.

4. Firestarter

Whenever you create a movie list that have horror films on it, it almost impossible not to have a Stephen King title on the list. Here is a man that knows a thing or two about creating evil and creepy children characters. In this one, we have a 9 year old Drew Barrymore that has the incredible power of pyrokinesis (the ability to start and control fires with your mind). Wikipedia says that there is no conclusive evidence that pyrokinesis is a real phenomenon, but I don’t believe everything that I read on the internet. As a horror film, this one does fall on the slow side, but it more than makes up for it with some great over acting from Martin Sheen and a finale bigger than any 4th of July you have experienced.

5. The Good Son

In Brightburn, some of the creepier moments are when Brandon Breyer has a simple good vs evil question to answer and he chooses evil. There may not be any superpowers involved in the scene, it is just the choice to do evil that chills you to the bone. Jackson A. Dunn probably learned those looks from Macaulay Culkin's character Henry from The Good Son. The film revolves around Elijah Woods moving in with Macaulay’s family after Elijah’s mom dies. The two become friends but slowly Macaulay begins to show signs of violent behavior. Macaulay encapsulates evil beautifully in this film and it has been used as visual birth control for many years.

I did see a great review of the film on Letterboxd by Steven Short that says “a.k.a. We Need to Talk About Kevin McCallister”. Click here to befriend this man and give him the creative props that he deserves.

6. Who Can Kill a Child?

This was part of a double feature that was shown during the Friday Night Horror Series “Graveyard Shift” at Alamo Drafthouse in La Centerra. They show classic and underseen horror films and on this particular Friday Night, it was a double feature of evil children horror films. Who Can Kill a Child? is about a couple that travel to an island that has seemingly been taken over by possessed children. The film then proceeds to ask and answer the question “Who can kill a child?” It is a little rough around the edges, but if you can get your hands on this one, there is enough terrifying ideas and imagery to justify watching it.

7. Better Watch Out

I like the idea of taking a concept that is well known to the public and flipping it on it’s head. Brightburn takes the lovable and honorable Superman story and creates an evil monster out of him. Well, Better Watch Out takes the classic Home Alone and turns most of the fun shenanigans into ghastly and dire situations. It takes a few of the Home Alone premises to their logical conclusions, finally satisfying audiences with what would have really happened to Harry on those steps. In December when I inevitably do a snarky Top 10 Christmas Movie List, this one will be in my top five.

8. Man of Steel

Here’s the crazy thing about Superman: even when he is trying to do good, he hurts people. With a few years distance from Man of Steel and a little perspective, we now know that the epic battle between Superman and General Zod sets up the DC Universe for Batman vs Superman. With that being said, that battle probably killed 100,000 people and did billions of dollars in damage to that city. While this movie is my least favorite on the list, it does make the list due to the damage and destruction that Superman does even while trying to be good.

9. The Hole in the Ground

If you like your horror films slow and Irish, then you have come to the right place. The Hole in the Ground follows a mother who slowly begins to suspect her son is not who he used to be. There are these beautiful shots of the Irish countryside and some very claustrophobic moments inside the sinkhole, but what puts this film on the list is a very tense kitchen scene that had me sitting upright in the theater. This is a good version of a high concept and low budget film and while it may be a little too slow for some horror fans, it is definitely worth a viewing.

10. The Bad Seed (1956)

And here you have it! The original evil child! Patty McCormack plays Rhoda, an 8 year old who is seemingly a perfect child. What really works for this film is the slow erosion of preconceived notions of the character as we learn little by little about her. The black and white film just adds an extra layer of menace to this film that makes it a dark and memorable watch.