Breihan Dryden, A&E Writer
As a movie lover, I try not to go into films prepared to hate them. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, I try and find the best in all things (as you might have learned from the previous films covered here). Which leads us to Bird Box, which I went into with zero knowledge of its existence, outside of some interviews that I had read months earlier on a couple of the horror sites I frequent. With a premise that sounds vaguely interesting (think The Happening meets A Quiet Place, except not as entertaining) and a, uh, weird to say the least cast, I was happy to sit down and watch this with my fiancé on a rainy night. Ohhhhhhh boy, I hope you’re ready to read me ripping this movie a new one.
First off, let’s start with some positives. The acting in this film, for the most part, is pretty solid. Sandra Bullock is always a treat and is very believable in her role as the protective mama bear of her unborn child, John Malkovich is wonderful in his usual John Malkovich-y way, and Trevante Rhodes is a pretty good backbone character to the story. Another thing this film has going for it is that it is beautiful. My hat goes off to cinematographer Salvatore Totino for giving us some truly delicious looking shots. Finally, the music in this film was handled by Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails fame) and his frequent collaborator Atticus Ross and it is simply wonderful. Moody, chaotic, and pulsing are all wonderful descriptors of this quality soundtrack. Now, onto the bad stuff, of which there is plenty.
Oh man, where to begin. I guess we can start with all of the characters that I didn’t mention above. They’re all useless. They either serve the purpose of padding out a body count, to spout exposition (about things we the viewer and the characters themselves already know about), or are there simply to exist. Heck, two of the most inconsequential characters steal the groups car and bounce. It’s treated as some big loss for the group, not because they took the car, but because how could Machine Gun Kelly and random Latina cop lady just leave??!?!? Oh yeah, MGK is in this film and he’s about as good as you’d expect him to be. While we’re on the topic of characters, this film has a really bad habit of not informing you who anyone is. Occasionally, you’ll learn a character’s name, but for the most part you’ll be saying “Why did they lock up John Malkovich?” or “Man, they should have listened to the black guy that isn’t the comic relief from Get Out.” It comes across as lazy writing and it doesn’t help the viewer get invested into the well-being of these people at all. Speaking of lazy, let’s talk about the lack of the elephant in the room and by that, I mean the lack of any physical creature(s) in the film. Now, I get it. Often times, what you imagine the creature in one of these monster movies (people need to stop pretending like this is anything BUT a creature feature) looking like is generally better than what it turns out to be. But you know what? At least they have a creature. Even the films that this so heavily takes inspiration from (The Happening and A Quiet Place) both show their creatures. Granted, in The Happening the monsters are plants, but still, it’s something. In Bird Box, we get nothing, nada, zilch. The reason given in the movie is that “iT’s ToO sPoOpY tO sHoW yOu”, but in reality, it’s more than likely just that filmmakers were too lazy to come up with something creative. I’m a simple man. You don’t have to give me a full blown reveal of the monster, but a leg here, a wing there, maybe a some talons. I’m just saying, it would help get me invested into the story and well-being of these characters if they were actually faced with some kind of physical threat. And yes, before people jump down my throat, I know that there was a creature designed for the film and that it was really bad looking so it was scrapped, but that’s not an excuse.
Bird Box is a tough one, because it had potential. I know it’s based on a book that is probably far better, but what works in a novel doesn’t always translate well to film. As it stands, Bird Box is a movie that feels like a TV pilot, has zero tension because of how the film is structured (the film constantly jumps back and forth from “present day” to “five years later”), only has three characters that are worth anything of substance, and is a genuine mess of a film. If you’re in the mood for a solid Netflix original that oozes with atmosphere and tension so thick you could cut it with a knife, do yourself a favor and skip this and go check out Apostle. I guarantee that you that it is a far better use of your two hours.
“Bird Box” gets 2 Golden Taylors out of 10