R, for people doing horrible things to themselves and each other. Like The Happening, something out there causes people to kill themselves in calm, but extremely violent ways. But then there are also killers and that makes things even creepier. The movie itself is very creepy. In terms of frightening images, that's kept to a minority of the film. But then there's what is unseen is completely unnerving. It's R, but you could maybe fight for a PG-13. I'm sure there's probably language in there, stopping it. R.
DIRECTOR: Susanne Bier
I'm one of you! I'm part of the rabble! (Nothing wins over readers by referring to them as the collective, uncultured masses.) Everyone in the world watched this movie. Netflix never reveals its viewing numbers...unless they are insanely high. 45 million people watched Bird Box opening weekend. Then there were memes galore. Let's establish, I have yet to be impressed by the Bird Box memes. When I heard that Bird Box memes were taking over the internet, I was ready. But they were lame. Regardless, I was hesitant to see this one. Like everyone's commented, isn't Bird Box just a variation on A Quiet Place. Even though I was really hesitant to give Bird Box a try for that very reason, Bird Box holds its own way more than I thought it possibly could.
SPOILERS: Susanne Bier gets tone and suspense. I, too, read the article saying that the creature looked like it had a baby's head for a face and Sandra Bullock couldn't stop laughing. Thank you, Sandra Bullock. I thought we were done. But your keen insight when it comes to making this movie work better without a visible monster is the best choice. I wanted my wife to watch A Quiet Place before we broke into Bird Box. I don't know if we could go back and watch A Quiet Place now simply because they show monsters. I don't care how good the monsters look. There's always something uncanny valley about the whole experience. But then you have this monster that is based on looking at it. It has to be absolutely terrifying. You aren't allowed to have a garbage looking monster when everyone is avoiding looking at the monster. Okay, not everyone is avoiding looking at the monster. You know who really wants to see that monster? Me! But thank you everyone involved for not showing me that creature. Instead, I get something almost better. I get drawings. Those drawings are something out of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. That's the best. Thank you for that. That messes with my head way worse than some CG nonsense. The only monsters that have ever worked for me is in John Carpenter's The Thing and copies of those would only be disappointing. There is also another level we have to discuss with how effective this monster has to be. The monster has to mentally change you. I don't know the rules of the monster. I want to talk about that at length as well, but I really have no clue what is going on on the psyche of those people who see the monster. But all I can say for certain is that looking at the monster changes your perception of reality. It alters your brain chemistry and makes your eyes all goopy. You show me a creature effect from The Thing and I would have to be changed to make it all make sense. It's not going to do that.
You kind of have to make a deal with this movie. It's an unsaid agreement. The movie wants you to have all kinds of question. Keeping the monster so ambiguous means you almost don't have a sense of what works and what doesn't. The movie gives you some hard and fast rules. The monster can't be inside. You can't look at it, even through a camera or digital image. It can talk to you. It can make crazy people even crazier. That's really about it. But in terms of, "Why", there's a lot to be imagined. The big one that my wife and I kept trying to wrap our heads around is why it can't go inside. Oh, it can send crazy people inside all day. Those people are far too scary and I love it. But it can't enter a house. It seems like it has no corporeal form. It's shown onscreen as wind and leaves, but it has to exist, right? Nothing is breaking. We don't have kaiju effects going on in the movie. Why can't it go in a house? That seems like a major thing and it is just explained away by a news report saying to stay inside. But this also leads me to the voices in the forest. The monster constantly tries to trick characters into looking at it. These messages are always personal. It's voices of loved ones. It makes me wonder why people run away from it. That seems kind of silly. If you're blind, why are you running? The wind can't affect you. It's just a light breeze. The only time that physical conflict should be involved is with the crazies. That guy should have been silent, tipped over the boat, and removed the blindfold. I guess there is another question there. It really seems like the monster thrives on being accepted out of free will. I'm going to talk about the allegorical aspect in a second. But in terms of fantasy horror, the creature has a lot of rules that we just accept. It's kind of like the original Predator in that way. The reasoning behind a lot of the choices of both the monster and the plot are just left up to simplicity. The more complex this story becomes, the dumber it becomes. Please, film studios, no sequels. I know that A Quiet Place 2 is apparently happening. But Bird Box seemed to have plumbed the depths of this creature. I mean, it got me to ask a real big question that apparently the novel covered. I wondered if I would have blinded my children to have avoided the threat altogether. It's a dark thought, but the movie kind of teases that idea. Regardless, I don't want more. I need this creature to be hard and fast with its rules, but have no explanation for those rules. That's the only way this works. I mean, you could just do a sequel with other people going through this problem, but that's disappointing to me as well.
I am not coming up with this explanation. I'm just passing it along from io9. I read that website way too much. I know that they aren't the only people throwing this around, but I do kind of want to get my two cents on this one. I love the allegory of social media. It isn't perfect. But considering that an allegory is an extended metaphor, swimming around the realm of figurative language probably makes the most sense. I'm going to pick it apart and use some of the stuff from the io9 article. Now, I don't have it in front of me and I don't have the time of day to go through proper citation, but I'll do my best. They mentioned in the article that the painting that Bullock was working on was about how people fail to connect truly. BTW, making her profession tied directly to visual medium made me roll my eyes a bit, but I'll continue. But the entire thing is about how toxic the internet gets. It's weird to think of the things that my daughter will see in her lifetime that I caught only glimpses of in my childhood. My students grew up with the Internet. I got my Internet in junior high. I was terrified of it. I think our technology phobic parents taught us to distrust what was online and that's probably pretty healthy. I love me the Internet, as seen by this very blog. But that healthy fear was eventually washed away by being exposed to terrible things. I remember a couple of years ago a news reporter was shot and killed on television. That footage was ambiguous at best. Then it was announced that the killer filmed it POV and I remember having the page loaded up and the whole thing on pause. I could literally watch a person die if I wanted to. As a kid in the '90s, there was Faces of Death, but that was hard to get a hold of. Also, it was kind of a ghost story that people told. You knew that the bad kids in the school would watch that tape, but the rest of us wanted nothing to do with it. I don't want to see people die, yet I was so tempted to watch the video that the killer had made. Something sick within me wanted to rewrite who I was and make me something way worse. That's the metaphor. This monster wants you to look at it. It is going to kill the person you were because you need to look at it. It will be something tempting. The voices from the woods are trying to convince you. Similarly, the people who want you to look at the monsters are the trolls of the Internet. They want to take you down. I want you to think about that. This movie is right on the nose. It never preaches, but it feels like there is something right underneath the surface. It's like good poetry. There is this surface message that you can take away immediately. The movie itself is scary and watchable without this other level. But then add that level and things take on a whole new meaning. These arbitrary rules have a bit of sense. (Okay, why they can't enter houses is completely beyond me. Is it just so we have a sense of comfort that can be violated by intruders?)
I don't know how I feel about the motherhood angle of the entire movie. I suppose that Jurassic Park has dictated that we need to put kids in danger. Yeah, the movie is R rated, but it is a wholesome R. This never feels like we're full on horror, but simply an R-Rated cousin of The Sixth Sense. That means we can put kids in danger with the promise that they can't be killed violently on screen. There are moments when the kids are extremely effective, mainly when we yell at them for doing dumb things. Why does she stand up and leave the boat so quickly. I have so many questions about the kids. They grew up in a world infested by the monster of the movie. According to them, the world never existed before the monster. How is Girl so bad at being alive? She keeps doing dumb stuff as if she was thrown into the chaos like the rest of humanity. She should be amazing at this. She should always be afraid of outside. Adding the kids to the movie makes it creepier (except when Sandra Bullock is obviously carrying two dolls. That part is silly). But there's this arc of Bullock learning to become a mother. It kind of just resolves itself. Also, them not having names is not nearly as effective as the movie thinks it is. It just seems atmospheric as opposed to a hurdle that needs to be leapt. I don't deny that it gives Bullock another level to play, but the movie tried to make it a central character flaw. I don't know if she slowly grows into that moment or it just turns off like a lightswitch. There is the great moment in the boat when Boy volunteers to take off his blindfold. That part makes the kid section totally worth it. But overall, do we really see small character growth throughout? She has moments of growth, but all those scenes don't really add up to the resolution we get.
I loved Bird Box. I really didn't think I would. I might even like it better than A Quiet Place. There's something deeper and richer about Bird Box, which is weird considering that it came out second. Mind you, John Krasinski and Emily Blunt may have read the book first, so who knows how this played out. Regardless, it's on Netflix. If you aren't part of the everybody who caught this one, check it out.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.