If the characters of Bird Box are unlucky enough to see whatever mysterious creature lurks nearby, they may be overcome by a desire to violently smash their head against the nearest surface. Watching this film has a similar effect.
Netflix’s newest addition to their streaming catalogue promises more than it delivers with this sadly unremarkable stumble into the horror genre. There is nothing wholly original about this film’s execution, with only the premise – that of having to temporarily blind yourself to survive – offering anything new to the horror genre.
The film follows Malorie (Sandra Bullock), an emotionally distant, harsh character who we are first introduced to threatening to violently chastise two young children if they misbehave. So, not the most easily likeable of protagonists. To be fair to her though, her world has devolved into a brutal survival test, leaving her grieving all who were close to her. The world has been invaded by these mysterious creatures who drive any who see them into madness. These creatures have caused the violent suicide of the majority of the world’s population, with only a few survivors hiding out. It soon becomes apparent that the only method to avoid a gruesome death is to cover up the eyes when outside and either surrender to blindly wander the streets or hole up inside with all windows blocked.
To give props to writer, Eric Heisserer, this is a compelling concept. After all, when we are stripped of an important sense, we may feel more vulnerable. It’s understandable how that may frighten the characters. However, unfortunately, that same horror is not translated to the audience. If director Susanne Bier played around with the idea of blindness more by possibly removing visuals for the audience also, or allowing them to see threats the characters cannot, then perhaps this would have allowed for more tension and immersed the audience more. Unfortunately, the direction style did not explore any creative avenues and we are left with a pretty standard piece of work.
The script blindly follows the usual story-telling route carved out by countless stories before, meaning side characters felt dull and the plot fairly predictable. Supporting characters often fell into cliched roles like the tough-and-unreasonable-leader, the unreliable-and-selfish-drug-dealer or the end-is-nigh-preacher. It’s a shame this story didn’t match the quality of its cast, which comprised of brilliant actors like Sandra Bullock, John Malkovich, Trevante Rhodes, Tom Hollander, Sarah Paulson, and rising star Danielle Macdonald.
Great horrors are held up by their villains and this is where Bird Box misses the mark. The creatures seemed flawed, which diminished their threat. Characters were safe if they stayed in-doors because apparently these creatures can’t enter buildings, perhaps suffering from the same inability to open wooden doors that the aliens in Signs do. They also can’t seem to cause any harm as long as potential victim’s eyes remain closed, meaning the only real physical threat has to come from a hastily added side-plot of travelling “mad-men” that seem under-used throughout the film.
Bird Box fails in being scary and is too average to be thrilling. Instead, it will be added to the long list of films that are only “okay” and can be summed up with a non-comital shrug and descriptive “meh”.
by Michaela Barton
Michaela is a freelance journalist living in Glasgow who watches far too much Netflix so might as well make a career out of it. Her one true love is procrastination but she’s also a fan of feminist and queer theory, ugly dad shirts, and abducting cats.