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Review: Netflix’s Bird Box (Good But Nothing Original)

I spent my New Year’s Eve watching Bird Box with my husband and my sister in law while eating a vegetable platter. I’m either really owning the whole old thing at age 30 or I’ve never been much of a partyer. I’ll let you decide. Even since Bird Box flew to Netflix on December 21, 2018, my Facebook timeline has been overrun by a slew of user based reviews; some calling it the scariest movie of the year and others calling it nothing out of the ordinary. Having had ten days to sit it out and watch the action unfold on social media, I think I’m going to add my tally to the folks claiming that the new film starring Sandra Bullock is good, but nothing original. Those calling it a mash-up of The Happening and A Quiet Place are on the money; although Bird Box didn’t steal content from A Quiet Place. In reality, Bird Box received a rough draft in 2008 before finally being published as a novel on May 14, 2014 by Josh Malerman and Harper Voyager & Ecco – two years before A Quiet Place originated as a screenplay draft. And while M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening did mass suicide first in 2007, and did it better (or funnier), this puts Bird Box at the bottom of the list. Out of these three movies, even though they aren’t related, my ranking would go A Quiet Place, The Happening and Bird Box. That’s not saying that Bird Box is a terrible movie by any means. It’s going to go down in the history books whether we like it or not, and it was a cool way to end the 2018 horror season.

Here’s where I need to caution you because spoilers are coming up. If you don’t want to know anything about this film story-wise, click away now. Bird Box follows a strange phenomenon that starts in Russia and Romania before landing here in The United States. Malorie (Sandra Bullock) is being visited by her sister Jessica (Sarah Paulson), and they’re checking on the development of Malorie’s unborn child several days before its due date. On their way home from the hospital, the world turns upside down and they begin witnessing the same mass suicides happening all over the world. Malorie finally finds shelter in an upper-class home with a ragtag group of strangers, and together they try and wait out the apocalypse. When it becomes clear that help isn’t on the way, they seek out food, supplies, and more importantly information on how unseen creatures operate. Hope is almost lost until a voice comes over a walkie-talkie, alerting Malorie and her friends that help is only a two day trek down the river. With blindfolds and sheer determination, Malorie attempts to make it to a gated community…all while being hunted by creatures and the insane humans that worship them. Directed by Susanne Bier (yasss female director), Bird Box stars Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Trevante Rhodes (The Predator), John Malkovich (Red), Danielle Macdonald, Jacki Weaver (Blunt Talk), Lil Rel Howery (Get Out), D.B. Wong (Law & Order), Rosa Salazar (Maze Runner saga), Machine Gun Kelly (rapper – “Bad Things”) and a quick but welcomed role from Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story).

Where Bird Box fails and A Quiet Place succeeds is Bird Box never shows viewers the monsters; instead opting to have the bigger threat be the mentally insane or inherently evil serve as the main antagonizes, since they react to seeing the monsters differently. This, to me, was another moot point because I’d rather the film stuck with more supernatural menaces. A Quiet Place starts in much of the same way, with breath-stealing suspense and palpable mystery, and when that starts to wear off, the film decides it’s time to show its baddies. Bird Box lets viewers know that the monsters are close, and are capable of mimicking human voices and projecting your deepest fears/greatest losses, but they never show them – outside of charcoal drawings on a living room table. Perhaps this tactic steals away some of the gratification that we crave as a horror audience, or as inner heroes wanting to slay the beasts. And where A Quiet Place let us see that its villains are huge, gnarly and scary, Bird Box’s beasts are too weak to open doors and windows, or even drag people, thus they work through followers. They are virtually powerless if you keep your eyes closed or a blindfold over your eyes. Yeah, that doesn’t sound too scary to me. More annoying than anything. It goes to show that a little give-and-take needs to be in order to ensure that the audience stays interested throughout the entire movie. Again, Bird Box is good, but it starts to drag at the hour mark. And it needs more than an incredible cast to make me say wow.

Sources are now reporting that Bird Box was watched by over 45,000,000 unique Netflix accounts. If you put that into a theatrical perspective, and charged an average of $10 for a ticket price, Bird Box has already made a make-believe total of $450,000,000. I honestly have no idea how Netflix makes its money outside of subscription renewals and payed advertising, so it stands to reason that it’s going to make most of its money back when it hits Blu-ray/DVD. It’s no surprise that audiences are eating this up, same as they did The Haunting of Hill House. Many news outlets branded both titles “the scariest title of the year” and neither entity delivered on that promise. It’s also no surprised that this movie was produced as well as it was. I mean, did you expect someone like Sandra Bullock to star in anything less than Hollywood-quality? My issue isn’t with Bird Box as a production because it’s flawless and fun, but I do have a problem with it keeping my interest. It’s sad to think I’ve gotten a bigger kick out of the internet memes with Bullock wearing a blindfold than the actual movie itself. The beginning of Bird Box was successfully alarming, and it bounced back and forth between horror and suspense – all until the hour mark. From there, it failed to keep my interest. The movie is almost two hours long and maybe shaving off 15 minutes, somehow, would have saved it from getting a lower mark.

Bird Box is a mildly scary, let’s throw away two hours on this suspense-thriller kind of title, but it’s far from the monster movie you want it to me. It’s good, but even further from “the scariest movie of the year.” I’d put that burden on Hereditary. Final Score: 6.5 out of 10.

Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)