Streaming Review of "Bird Box" by The Headless Critic
Bird Box – 2018
Production by: Universal Pictures, Bluegrass Films, Chris Morgan Productions
Distribution by: Netflix
When everyone on the planet begins committing suicide for unknown reasons, a group of survivors band together trying to outlast death from the unknown source. Years into oblivion a woman Malorie (Sandra Bullock) and a young Boy (Julian Edwards) and Girl (Vivien Lyra Blair) believe they’ve learned enough to avoid death and head down a river to one last possible refuge of a group of survivors. How do you survive against a death you cannot see and if you look you die? “Never lose sight of survival.”
In 2008 acclaimed director M. Night Shyamalan effectively killed his career for the next decade with the release of The Happening. It had a cast of stars both established and up and coming with the director’s signature reveal ending. People revolted against the horror advertised killing of humanity that was revealed to be Mother Nature fighting back. The Susan Bier directed Bird Box from a Josh Malerman novel as adapted to screen by professional sequel and screenplay converter Eric Heisserer is essentially a re-imagining of that story that could have easily been an unofficial sequel.
Without the built-in expectations the rising director had in 2008 and the promotion of a wide theatrically released blockbuster, the outrage that kills careers shouldn’t be the same for a movie that is essentially free to anyone who subscribes to Netflix instead of asking viewers to pay at the box office. It also helps that it’s a better movie.
The cast for this Netflix original is excellent. Sandra Bullock stars but supporting roles round out an immensely talented group. Sarah Paulson could have easily taken the star role. John Malkovich is as good as he’s ever been. Other familiar names and faces include BD Wong, Tom Hollander, Jacki Weaver, rapper Machine Gun Kelly and Trevante Rhodes who was the stand-out in the recently released The Predator movie and equally impresses here. Comedian Lil Rel Howery always seems to have a note of humor even in serious roles which can be a bit off-putting but he has become a stand-out of last year’s hit Get Out only falling behind Jordan Peele in success since that films release. Even smaller roles that are almost just cameos have talented actors Parminder Nagra and Pruitt Taylor Vince making appearances.
Environmentally aware films aren’t new. From comedies like The Toxic Avenger to the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, environmental hits have come from Hollywood for decades. Horror is perhaps the wealthiest of places to take planet Earth beyond action doomsday movies. Mother Nature having man commit suicide to protect herself is perhaps the most simplistic version of such a wealth of potential filmmaking. Mother Nature has been balancing herself since her creation giving writers plenty of built in material to write the end of the world with. Suicide is primarily a human condition reflecting on the torment we put ourselves through. In my opinion combining the two of them cheapens the real horror possibilities of both.
While I find the concept as flawed as I did The Happening, storytelling is much better. It’s told in a similar style as A Quiet Place with Stephen King’s liking to group people together in times of distress. None of the needed character development is as extensive as a Stephen King novel or the John Krasinski film but both are reminiscent. Don't let the comparisons to The Happening fool you. It feels just as much like a Stephen King apocalypse as it does an M. Night Shyamalan ending.
Available Now on Netflix
3 out of 5 Headless Critics