Review: Bird Box Should Have Been Left in the Box
We take off the blindfold on this Netflix original film.
By M.T. Bates
So, here we are talking about the current big horror film in the Netflix world, and to be honest, it's difficult to have much to say in regards to Bird Box. This movie has been talked about and reviewed to death, and it was at that point that I finally decided to sit down and see what all the noise was about. This review will contain spoilers, so consider this your warning.
What I watched was a zombie movie that had no zombies. The zombies were replaced with the spirits of the Ark of the Covenant (what else would you call them?). I really don’t know how else to explain it. There is surely some deeper social commentary behind what exactly these creatures were, but for the moment let’s examine the underlying story and the main character.
Sandra Bullock’s Malorie is a cold loner who would prefer solitary after her and her husband split, though, with a child on the way, her solo adventure will soon become a duo and it’s plain to see that she is not excited about it at all. Her lack of excitement kind of translates to the viewer and I found myself with just as lackluster of a feeling about the whole thing as well.
The characters in the film are all zombie trope characters. First, you have the unlikable asshole character who no one listens to before half the survivors die, including him, because they didn’t listen to him. You also have the strong younger male character who dies heroically and we can’t forget the weird and manic female who dooms everyone. No zombie movie is complete without a pair of “screw everyone else, we just want to survive” characters who steal a vital piece of equipment or vehicle and leave the others stranded. Lastly, you have the sort of likeable, very knowledgeable geeky character that you just know is going to die in the most stupid way.
I found myself sighing in unbridled indifference constantly as this movie slogged along, which is not to say I disliked everything about this movie. I thought it was shot well and the actors and actresses were great in it. My problem lies in the fact that I am convinced this was originally conceived as a zombie movie and they just replaced the zombies, which would have been fine in my book if everything else around the movie wasn’t so uninspired and confusing.
The short end of the story is some sort of supernatural creatures are manifesting everywhere and causing whoever looks at them to commit suicide instantly. This is why the characters blindfold themselves while moving around outside: because supernatural creatures apparently follow vampire rules and can’t enter your home unless invited?
While these creatures are sometimes portrayed as tangible beings that can touch things, they are at other times portrayed as ethereal-like, accompanied by wind and swirling leaves, but you are fine for the most part as long as you are inside, though you still can’t look out the windows or even watch videos of the creatures. They can force you to commit suicide through video feeds but can’t enter a house. Alright.
There is, however, a strange exception to the “look at them and you kill yourself” rule. Apparently, if your mind is already warped to some degree, you instead become sort of a herald to the suicide monsters, going around and forcing survivors to look at them. As such, these people are appropriately called Lookers. They tried to explain this at one point in the movie but it didn’t make complete sense, because sometimes they seem rather normal.
Eventually, as with all survival movies that share these kind of common themes, the survivors begin running out of food and supplies and must risk it all on a crapshoot idea or die anyway. It’s a tired plot point that only seems fresh because the characters are blindfolded as they navigate the outside world.
Truth be told, it doesn’t add any sense of dread and the Lookers being able to hunt down survivors also doesn’t do a whole lot in the form of terror. They are weird characters who exist solely to remove the blindfolds of any survivor as they preach the word of the suicide monsters, yet they arm themselves with guns. All of that seems kind of counterproductive, but the whole movie has issues like that.
I won’t spoil the ending, but to the surprise of no one, I hope, it was not very good. Aside from suffering from a case of “this is so clever but it really is not,” it wasn’t feasible in any sense of the word for long-term survival. Perhaps they weren’t showing us the means of survival, but it just didn’t seem possible.
Malorie obviously grows as a character, but it takes the entire film to happen. This isn’t a particular problem with the movie, as it is a common trope, but it is so transparent throughout that you know it is coming and you almost wish it doesn’t. Malorie being this cold-hearted woman is what kept her and her family alive. I felt it was a missed opportunity for her not to remain that way come the ending. A happy ending isn’t good enough unless the main character has some life-changing epiphany.
The cast performs well and there is a lot of emotion in many of their portrayals that will keep you engaged. The cinematography is also all-around great.
The story, creatures, and rules of the film were mostly confusing. Tired horror tropes were used in uninspiring ways to push this "not a zombie" movie. The ending was also dumb.
Bird Box succeeds only in showing us that Sandra Bullock still has it all (not that I think people ever thought she lost it), and when she has a great supporting cast she can shine bright no matter what kind of drivel they throw her in. I can see the overall appeal of the film and sort of understand why it gained so much popularity outside of the horror circles, but it fails to break any new ground in horror.
It wouldn’t surprise me if this movie faded into obscurity within the next two years. Watch for yourself to form your own opinion but be warned that this movie is slow and long. On the bright side, though, you find out why it is called Bird Box in the first 5 minutes of the movie. Is that a bright side?