Dec 28, 2018
We’re back with another Netflix Original film, this time with a screenplay by Eric Heisserer, writer for the award-winning “Arrival” and also writer for another Netflix Original, “Extinction” (Episode #209). Today’s film hasn’t been doing well with the critics, but did it land well with me? I’ll let you know in a minute, but if you are looking for a review of any of the Netflix Original films released this year, head over to onemoviepunch.com and search on the Netflix Original blog tag. If you think we’ve missed one, let us know using the contact form, or reach out over social media.
Today’s movie is “Bird Box” (2018), the Netflix Original dystopian thriller directed by Susanne Bier and written for the screen by Eric Heisserer, based on the novel by Josh Malerman. The film follows Malorie (Sandra Bullock), and her two children, in the wake of an unknown effect that causes an unprecedented wave of suicides. Now the three of them must travel upriver wearing blindfolds in order to reach safety, while not succumbing to the phenomenon.
I don’t think there’s any question that this film will suffer with both the viewers and the critics because of the incredible work with sensory deprivation horror in “A Quiet Place” (Episode #127). The two films have too many similarities to work any other way. We have creatures that use sensory input or output to track a vastly depopulated world, in a mostly forested area, involving children and unexpected sacrifice, not to mention harsh consequences for not following the rules of survival. We also have two major protagonists arguing over the value of survival if a person cannot truly live. And let’s face it, comparisons to “The Happening” are also inevitable, what with an unknown phenomenon causing people to commit suicide. I can only imagine what was going through Josh Malerman’s mind, what with finishing his rough draft of the novel right as “The Happening” made it to theaters, and with the release of “A Quiet Place” earlier this year. It’s tough, sometimes, in the marketplace of ideas. However, imagine a world where there wasn’t a single zombie story after Legosi in “White Zombie” or Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead”, or no more serial killer slashers after “Halloween”, or any other seemingly specific horror premise. The trick, of course, is to bring something new to the premise, and “Bird Box” does do that, although not without some problems.
The structure of “Bird Box” flips back and forth between two main storylines. We begin right away with Malorie instructing the children about the rules while they head down the river towards a sanctuary, approximately five years after the phenomenon began, setting a harsh, serious tone. And then we’re back to when The Problem (as it’s referred to in the novel) begins causing mass suicides for most folks, resulting in a very pregnant Malorie holing up in a suburban home with a bunch of other refugees. The structure means we know a few things: first, that Malorie is definitely going to survive, and that another pregnant woman will at least give birth, and that most of the people we see in that home are likely not going to survive at all. It’s not a great start to a survival horror film, but everything begins to unfold after that pretty well. Most of the story is told within the suburban home, its own kind of bird box for the humans, and touches on the usual survival needs, most especially food. We also learn that not everyone is affected the same by The Problem, and that creates another kind of horror to deal with as well.
The cast is pretty great, especially Bullock, John Malkovich as the cagey asshole named Douglas, and B.D. Wong provides his usually exceptional support as Greg, Douglas’ gay neighbor. If anything, the sheer number of characters made the rest of an incredible cast feel underutilized. In fact, as compared to the novel, there is so much story left untold to fit a feature film. We learn that Malorie and Tom (Trevante Rhodes), along with the two children, live together for about five years after they flee the suburban home, an opportunity for more story development not really explored by either medium. I also thought the blindfolded camera perspectives didn’t adequately capture visually on film what the imagination might create reading the novel, which is also why sound depravation works so much better for “A Quiet Place”, although the simple effects to represent the invisible creatures becoming present were well used in “Bird Box”. I also really liked the score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
“Bird Box” (2018) is a gripping post-apocalyptic sensory-deprivation survival horror film, which feels like a combination of “A Quiet Place” and “The Happening”. Overall, it’s pretty good, but also lacks enough to keep a good movie from being a great movie. Fans of survival horror films, or fans of post-apocalyptic films, will definitely enjoy this film.
Rotten Tomatoes: 66%
One Movie Punch: 7.0/10
“Bird Box” (2018) is rated R and is currently streaming on Netflix and playing in selected theaters.