Netflix has been on a roll lately delivering one hit after the other. Their latest release is called Bird Box, a movie based off of the novel by the same name, which was written by Josh Malerman and released in early 2014. It received fairly high ratings, including a 4/5 on Goodreads, but one thing I’ve learned is that you can’t judge a film by its book.
Bird Box follows Malorie (Sandra Bullock) and two young children Girl and Boy (Vivien Lyra Blair, Julian Edwards) as they travel down a treacherous river in an attempt to find safety. In lengthy flashbacks, we learn that a majority of humans are dead due to an unseen force that leads to brutal mass suicides all over the globe.
Sound familiar? Back in 2008, M. Night Shyamalan’s sci-fi mystery/thriller The Happening hit theaters with a plot eerily similar to that of Bird Box. Did someone copy? No. Josh Malerman, lead singer and guitarist for The High Strung and writer of Bird Box, finished his first draft before The Happening was released, but he held off on publishing it when it was complete due to Shyamalan’s movie. Good call. Although the plot was similar to The Happening, Bird Box did it way better. It had more of a vibe similar to that of A Quiet Place, which is one of 2018’s better horror releases.
Bird Box opens with Malorie sternly and aggressively giving specific instructions to Boy and Girl, one being, “Under no circumstance are you allowed to take off your blindfold. If I find that you have, I will hurt you.” This displays the seriousness of the situation and immediately captures the audience’s attention with its harshness. After manically and blindly following a string by touch and counting steps, they reach a row boat to begin their journey, then we get a flashback from five years prior — the day everything started. We see that Malorie is pregnant and her sister Jessica (Sarah Paulson) takes her to the Ob/Gyn. This is where we first learn that the outbreak has reached the States. After tragically losing her sister, Malorie finds herself in a house with seven others.
The cast in this movie is incredible. Besides the beautiful and gifted Bullock and Paulson, we’ve got Trevante Rhodes (The Predator) playing Tom, John Malkovich (Being John Malkovich) playing Douglas, BD Wong (Jurassic Park) as Greg, Lil Rel Howery (Get Out) as Charlie, Rosa Salazar (Maze Runner: Scorch Trials) playing Lucy, Machine Gun Kelly (Nerve) as Felix and Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook) as Cheryl. Way to go to the casting department for casting such talent.
As with any movie that circles around a group of people whose numbers slowly dwindle down (if done properly anyway), Bird Box is a character study. Although they don’t go into much detail about the characters pasts and personalities, they have small, subtle actions and dialogue that really show what kind of people they are. For example, you can tell a lot right off the bat by Malorie calling the kids Boy and Girl or by Douglas suing Greg, which is impeccable writing.
Eric Heisserer wrote the screenplay for the film and he did a great job at keeping the audience intrigued. Things never slowed and there was a nice consistency between the intense moments. I love the way that they find out that the mass suicides have started happening in the United States. Upon walking into the Ob/Gyn, they see a girl absently looking out a window while she talks on the phone. After the appointment, Jessica waits in the car because Malorie has to vomit and, when she makes her way outside, she passes by that same girl, who is now banging her head with full force against the glass window. She then turns and stares at Malorie. This scene gives me chills. The next couple minutes is a non-stop nerve-wracking bit as Jessica and Malorie speed towards home while the world falls apart around them.
Another quick positive note I want to add is the gore. It’s never overdone in the film, but when it’s there, it’s enough to earn gasps. This is another thing that the movie did exceptionally well that I think won’t get as noticed.
In Bird Box, the creature or demon or force is never explained. We have no idea where it came from, why it’s here, why it’s doing what it does, etcetera. This can be both a positive and a negative for some people, but for me, I love the mystery of not knowing these things and never getting a glimpse of the wicked thing causing all of the deaths. A huge downside with Shyamalan’s The Happening was that he tried to explain why the wind was causing people to kill themselves by drilling it into our heads that there was no explanation and that strange things sometimes happen scientifically.
After doing some research, I learned that one of the Bird Box producers forced Heisserer to write in the script where Malorie comes face-to-face with one of the monsters, but when shooting the screen, Bullock kept laughing at the creature as it growled at her, so ultimately, they scrapped the idea. I think this was a great decision because I like the mystery in the unknown. In 2017’s The Ritual, they showed the creature at the very end and it didn’t live up to my expectations, which really made me dislike the film.
The only downside that comes to mind in Bird Box is that you see Malorie travel down the river with the two children. Therefore, when they show the flashback from five years earlier, you see who she started out with and realize that the others didn’t make it somehow or another. Although you expect to see them die throughout the movie, however, it doesn’t take away the enjoyment one gets from watching this flick.
Bird Box is a must-see film this year. If you don’t believe me, just ask Netflix, who stated that this book-turned-movie received forty-five million views in its first week. It’s impossible to scroll through social media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter without seeing hilarious memes about the film, which is a pleasant note to end 2018 on. I would recommend this movie to anyone.