This Bird Box Needs More Newspaper Lining
Bird Box is a horror film on Netflix that’s gotten a lot of buzz and plenty of praise. Does this film live up to its hype, or is it an empty experience?
So, this big apocalypse happens, where people start killing themselves and everything is a jangled, confused mess. A pregnant Sandra Bullock is trying to escape the city with her sister when the unhinging of society breaks loose. Her sister dies and she ends up huddled together with a bunch of other survivors inside the house of cranky old John Malkovich. It turns out that if you use your eyesight outside, you see something horrific, although it is invisible to the camera. There are monsters and their horror causes you to kill yourself. Or, in a later twist, causes you to “see” something beautiful (but makes you obviously deranged and fucking crazy). Survival tactics ensue and we watch as our intrepid pals go out to seek food from a supermarket and deal with the realities of this new world they live in. Of course, people start dying, and as it goes, everyone dies except Bullock and Trevante Rhodes and the two kids that Bullock and another, doomed character, gave birth to. We jump ahead five years and our beautiful couple has survived and find hope in radio contact with a supposed sanctuary very far away. One perilous river trip later, and Bullock and the kids arrive to find the twist in the tale that will be groan-inducing to anyone who has ever championed a bad M. Night Shyamalan film.
I knew I was in trouble when I stopped the film to take a piss and discovered I was an hour into it and still had another hour to go. This Bird Box was more like a yawn box. Turns out, there’s not a lot to like here.
First, the characters felt more like a checklist of stereotypes than actual, you know, characters. There’s the compassionate and wise gay guy. There’s the cranky old white man who loves to drink. There’s the tough gal. There’s the white boy rapper with all the tats. There’s the chiseled, bad ass black guy who also has a great big heart. There’s the funny black guy. There’s the bitter main character. On and on it goes. Nobody is really given anything more than their, ahem, Bird Box to perform in and that’s a shame because there’s a lot of good actors in this that really have nothing to do but show up and collect a paycheck.
Second, the rules that are set up are kind of dumb. Somehow they discover that they have to be blindfolded and not look around outside and that makes them safe from the monsters. This is never explained, unless it was during a scene where my eyes were glazed over and my brain was shut down. And how lucky they are that the monsters can’t go inside any building, right? Why not? Is this explained and I missed that, too? And if the monsters can’t hurt you if you don’t look at them, then why are people running from them? Like, just take your time and walk along. This whole thing feels like a “clever” conceit that seems at first like a great hook, but in the end, collapses under its own weight.
Third, it’s amazing that these characters can do so many things blindfolded and never fall and break a leg or poke an eye out on a tree branch. In the case of four characters, they went five years being this lucky. Five years! Come on.
Don’t get me started on that ending. Spielberg must be jealous that they created such an insipid and saccharine-sweet ending as this one.
Now, it sounds like I hated the movie, doesn’t it? I didn’t. It’s competent and it’s not horrible. Cut out half an hour and you have a more crackling film. The first half hour to forty minutes are pretty damned good, for the most part. I liked seeing society fall apart and they did a pretty good job portraying this downfall. The pure panic in those opening calamities is well done, even if it does kind of feel like The Happening. Also, I appreciate the riffs on Lovecraft and the Triffids, but Jesus, putting that stuff in there only reminded me of far more superior works.
In the end, this movie isn’t very satisfying. It’s kind of like eating one of those Styrofoam rice cakes. You can load all the peanut butter on it you want, but in the end, it still tastes like crap, even if it will tide you over until your next, full meal.
2 Stars out of 4