Bird Box (2018)
December 25, 2018 8:57 PM - Subscribe

A woman and a pair of children are blindfolded and make their way through a post-apocalyptic setting along a river.
posted by DirtyOldTown (45 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
People really seem to enjoy shitting on this movie, but I thought it was pretty good. I think it suffers from having a similar premise to and coming out around the same time as A Quiet Place. I think if that other film did not exist and this movie had slipped onto Netflix with less hype and a less famous star--Jenna Fischer, for instance--people would have likely been pretty positive about it.

But, alas, A Quiet Place does exist and this was a movie with Certified Top Shelf Movie Star Sandra Bullock in the lead. And compared to the other film's Swiss clock construction, this is a couple of steps down.

There was still plenty to like. The performances are good, especially Bullock. Many, if not most of the sequences have the same kind of desperate, miserable tension that AQP had. The connective tissue is weaker, with the much longer list of co-stars making for less developed characters. And the premise is clever, but by being more complicated it becomes both a little convoluted at times and less internally consistent.

But this is still very enjoyable. I'd give it a B-.

My only serious complaint that isn't based around a point of comparison to AQP is that the cinematography is underwhelming. Even random cable dramas routinely have memorable, sweeping visuals. And yet this film never really gives you much visually beyond competence. It's about at the level of an off-episode of Lost.

But on the whole, yeah, mostly I think it will be remembered for doing a pretty good job of something unusual we just saw done perfectly not so long ago.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:06 AM on December 26, 2018 [8 favorites]


It actually reminded me a lot of M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening, though much less terrible. Overall I thought it was pretty good, both in the tension and in the characters; I especially liked the little scene between Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich's characters.
posted by velvet_n_purrs at 7:03 AM on December 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


This was almost as bad as that Nicholas Cage turd Mom and Dad. No matter how much I wanted to, I didn't believe a single second of this lame film. No wonder it went straight to Netflix.
posted by hoodrich at 4:02 PM on December 26, 2018


I excuse the inconsistency with the edit that must have come adapting this into a 2-hour movie. I really like casting smallish parts with A-list actors that I don't expect to die. I really liked seeing Trevante Rhodes in a new role too.

I get that it's easy to compare this with A Quiet Place, but the monsters felt a lot more mystical/existential rather than alien.

It was creepy and intense enough to keep me interested.
posted by gladly at 6:01 PM on December 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


No wonder it went straight to Netflix.

It went straight to Netflix because they bought the script, hired the staff, and put up the production budget.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:54 PM on December 26, 2018 [46 favorites]


I thought this was a solid film.

Bullock's opening monologue just filled me with tension and I thought it was a strong and terrifying way to set the stage. It didn't feel like clunky exposition to me.

I didn't feel the need for too much tightness in the actual scenario, because whether the threat was creatures or whether it was some type of contagious psychosis didn't matter to me - the story was driven forward by the characters' attempts to survive in a dangerous environment with diminishing resources. A locked house; changed rules; a ticking clock. It was enough tension to make me pause the film a few times.

I could have done without the car commercial in the middle.
posted by entropone at 6:42 AM on December 27, 2018 [5 favorites]


I thought this was a solid film.

Bullock's opening monologue just filled me with tension and I thought it was a strong and terrifying way to set the stage.


This was where I was at: I thought she and the others sold the tension fairly well. I also liked never actually seeing one of the monsters onscreen, just one guy's drawings of what he imagined them to be.

About the only part I found weak was the ending, which felt too easy given the presence of those crazy raiders. I guess a school for the blind was going to be missing what they needed, but why not steal all its food and stuff?
posted by mordax at 9:41 AM on December 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


I'm with you on the end, Mordax, which I thought was WAYYYYYYY to easy after all we've seen of this new world.

I saw two women debating the metaphoric meaning of the movie.One of the thought that this film is really all about post partum depression (both of them experienced it). The emotional distance from the children for fear of losing them, for example, resonated with both of them.

My biggest gripe is yet again, mentally ill people are portrayed as villains this time in service of these unseen "creatures." Why not make it colorblind people? I'm sick of horror films portraying the mentally as vicious, violent, and, in this case, evil. Sigh.
posted by miss-lapin at 10:50 AM on December 27, 2018 [11 favorites]


yeah, i completely agree, miss-lapin. i really didn't like that "crazy people" conceit.
posted by entropone at 11:05 AM on December 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


I saw two women debating the metaphoric meaning of the movie.One of the thought that this film is really all about post partum depression (both of them experienced it). The emotional distance from the children for fear of losing them, for example, resonated with both of them.

I thought that might be a thing too, based on Malorie's pre-cataclysm reaction to being pregnant in the first place, and her refusal to name the children until the end. (The 'no name' thing was my favorite detail in the film.)

My biggest gripe is yet again, mentally ill people are portrayed as villains this time in service of these unseen "creatures." Why not make it colorblind people? I'm sick of horror films portraying the mentally as vicious, violent, and, in this case, evil.

I thought this was actually somewhat ambiguous: Gary says it's escaped mental patients who are reacting this way, but all the people we see collaborating with the monsters looked to be indistinguishable from the general population. Gary himself looks like some stripe of well-off professional, Charlie didn't seem to think anything was 'off' about Fish Finger, and the rest of the marauders looked... well, normal enough.

For all we know, it could've just been people quitting smoking.

That said, I agree completely that the movie itself should've taken pains to call all that out a bit.
posted by mordax at 4:06 PM on December 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


I really want to watch this, but I'm having a hard time with any media where bad things happen to children. Like, a harder time than usual. How bad is it in those regards? I'm unconcerned with spoilers.
posted by Aquifer at 5:21 PM on December 27, 2018


The thing about this movie and A Quiet Place is that BB is based on the book by the same name by Josh Malerman, which came out well before AQP. Although I enjoyed AQP, I remember thinking the whole time "this concept was totally stolen from Bird Box!" Btw, the book was infinitely better than the movie. I thought it was one of the scariest books I've ever read. The movie was serviceable but disappointing.
posted by whistle pig at 5:52 PM on December 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


Gary says it's escaped mental patients who are reacting this way, but all the people we see collaborating with the monsters looked to be indistinguishable from the general population. Gary himself looks like some stripe of well-off professional, Charlie didn't seem to think anything was 'off' about Fish Finger, and the rest of the marauders looked... well, normal enough.

Have I got news for you about people with mental illness.
posted by entropone at 6:24 PM on December 27, 2018 [16 favorites]


Just watched this, liked it more than the reviews have. This is a fun take from the Root:

Netflix's Bird Box Is Really About How White People Don't Want to See Racism

posted by ejs at 6:43 PM on December 27, 2018 [6 favorites]


Have I got news for you about people with mental illness.

I'm aware. I deal with that both personally and as a long term caregiver.

My point is that the only evidence we have that it is actually the mentally ill is Gary, who is compromised. There is absolutely no way to know if it's that or something else.

Moreover, almost everybody dies for buying the usual routine of 'demonize the mentally ill' - they trust Gary because of how he looks, and they're quick to buy the 'mental patients are siding with the demons' story. Going for the stereotypes bites them all pretty hard.

The movie itself doesn't actually answer the question about who's affected. For all we know, it could've been random, nic fits, left-handedness or anything else. The movie could've done a better job of clarifying that was all.

Stepping out of this thread now since you seem bound and determined to be a dick about this.
posted by mordax at 7:57 PM on December 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


My big problem with the movie was a problem it shares with a ton of other movies and tv shows: when your mind-controlled minions or cultists or what have you say things like "You must see! It is so beautiful!" blah blah my-dark-god-let-me-show-you-it, that kind of dialogue really only works on the page and just sounds so stilted coming out of someone's mouth. River attack guy and dude who attacks during the double birth were egregious examples. And, speaking of, the double birth coincidence as a way to build up tension was kind of sweaty, to steal a term from the Blank Check podcast.

I thought it was ok otherwise. I can only take small doses of Malkovich doing his unrelenting jerk character, and it was clunky in spots, but it was decent overall. Bullock and Rhodes were great and carried the movie! I think it feels like a really solid horror movie from a few years before the current "horror movie renaissance" thing, like it's good but it's a bit out of step with its contemporaries.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:12 PM on December 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


From Mashable:

The villainization of people with mental illness in Hollywood is far from new. But Bird Box seems to wear this stigmatization and its sensationalization of suicide like a badge of gritty honor...Bird Box makes the egregious mistake of depicting these characters as one-dimensional caricatures defined exclusively by their mental illnesses. 

Sure, everyone "normal" who looks at the monsters becomes a brainless zombie. But turning people with mental illnesses into the exact opposite — zealots who survive only as extensions of a monstrous evil — has the incredibly othering effect of denying them even the humanity afforded to all the other characters.

posted by mediareport at 6:49 AM on December 28, 2018 [3 favorites]


lmao this was terrible. pretty sure the screenplay was written by a neural network
posted by prize bull octorok at 8:49 AM on December 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


No wonder this went to Netflix.

My bad. Didn't notice this originated in house. Not one of their best efforts.
posted by hoodrich at 1:56 PM on December 28, 2018


Another interesting take:

The monsters of Bird Box are social media. Seriously.

Think of Bird Box as a new entry into the old-fashioned 1950s monster movie genre, but instead of the midcentury fears about the Cold War, nuclear weapons, and communism we’re exploring the New Cold War and fears of what social media is doing to our brains. By putting on the blindfolds, the characters of Bird Box are protected from the monsters, which are actually the influences of social media.

posted by ejs at 3:00 PM on December 28, 2018


If the monster is social media why is their only defence literal tweeting.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:53 PM on December 28, 2018 [12 favorites]


I liked it! I like apocalyptic stuff although this verged on too scary for me. Sure it had flaws but all-in-all it was pretty good.
Since the only thing that seems to be made by major studios nowadays are super hero movies, I'm glad Netflix picked this up.
posted by k8t at 11:34 PM on December 28, 2018 [4 favorites]


I haven't read the book, but this story does feel like it would work better on the page than it does in this film. Is the book mostly the trip down the river but with flashbacks? Because with the film being mostly flashbacks and the river as a framing device, it really killed most of the tension in the story. Obviously everyone else had to die for Sandra to be left with the children alone to navigate the river. And we spent so long in the flashback, that all the river tension dissipated. "48 hours on the river" just felt like information, not like an ordeal.

I really loved Sandra's character, though. That's a fascinating person to see portrayed on screen - a woman who is scared she won't be able to bond with her child and then she has to take care of two of them. I wish this film had just been the river stuff.

A Quiet Place is a much better film.
posted by crossoverman at 3:43 AM on December 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


Ooh, I was so excited for this movie. I loved the book and couldnt wait to see how it would be portrayed on film. The part of the novel that resonated with me the most was how the author wrote Boy and Girl as the sweetest, most endearing children I have ever seen in a book. I was worried the child actors in the movie would disappoint but they were perfectly cast! Honestly I thought everyone was well cast, and the book stuck pretty close to the book, with a few changes that didnt bother me.

I liked it much more than A Quiet Place. The characters in Bird Box were more likeable, the kids were less irritating, the monsters were less silly looking, the ending was more satisfying..... I will never forgive AQP for that ridiculous bathtub scene. No spoilers, but come on. I was so angry once AQP was over, but I had a big grin on my face at the end of Bird Box.
posted by silverstatue at 7:33 PM on December 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


I thought this was awful. I feel like you can choose between having unexplained monsters, or having a massive cult following them around, but doing both doesn't really work. The fact that every piece of the text points towards them being people with mental problems is just insulting. It was also a legit ugly film. I felt like I was watching an informational video.
posted by codacorolla at 10:11 PM on December 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


I want to echo what whistle pig said earlier, the book is fantastic. Probably the best horror novel I've read.

I read that it week in preparation to watch the film, and I thought they were pretty unrelated works, apart from a few central story beats. If you enjoy the premise of the movie, give the book a shot.

I thought the movie was ok, but so much of the tension in the book is involved in being inside a character's head, trapped with something or someone possibly close by. It's hard to film that and get the same level of tension. They were way, WAY to cavalier about removing their blindfolds.
posted by graventy at 9:15 AM on December 30, 2018


I really enjoyed this. I liked the book, better, but enjoyed the movie a lot. I didn't view it as a metaphor for some Deep, Dark Truth: I just watched it as a monster movie.
posted by sarcasticah at 12:08 PM on December 30, 2018


It was also a legit ugly film. I felt like I was watching an informational video.

The first time I tried to watch it was with motion smoothing on and let me tell you, it made you 10x more righter than you already are, which is pretty right.
posted by ftm at 3:07 PM on December 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


I have no idea how these people got their birds wedged into their boxes, or why.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 10:07 AM on December 31, 2018 [7 favorites]


But this is still very enjoyable. I'd give it a B-.

Hard to argue with that assessment. It was enjoyable enough in the moment, but I don't feel like it left any kind of lasting impression.

Well, except that Malorie was like the only parent character in a movie that I ever found personally relateable, in that she didn't particularly seem to want or like her kids very much, to probably the greatest degree possible without being neglectful or abusive.

The connective tissue is weaker, with the much longer list of co-stars making for less developed characters.

At least half the people in the house plot just didn't need to be there. The skinhead guy and his girlfriend especially could have been deleted entirely. I liked Charlie just fine, actually, but he was visiting from a different movie and didn't really work in this one. The old lady didn't get to do much except briefly hinder Gary.
posted by tobascodagama at 3:31 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]


They were way, WAY to cavalier about removing their blindfolds.

That was probably the thing that bugged me the most. Like, as soon as you enter a building you take it off? What the hell makes you think the monsters can't go inside buildings, especially five-years after the fact. It seems apparent that they can't physically break-in, but what if a door was left open or a window broken?

That said, the way they sometimes peaked with one eye before taking it completely off was exactly in line with how irrational people can often be. Like, I'm pretty sure you're a goner whether you see them with one eye or with both, but real people would totally do something like that, as if they could cheat the rules and be safe as long as one eye is still covered.

On a slightly similar note, it seemed like sighted people were opening the door to the school at the end, which seems...not smart. It's entirely plausible that blind people opened the door and then sighted people checked their eyes, but that wasn't the impression I got. Maybe that's just me, though.

Anyway, about the movie overall, I thought it was good. I felt the tension while watching it, but also don't think it'll be particularly memorable in the long term. I'd already forgotten about the opening monologue until someone mentioned it upthread.
posted by asnider at 11:26 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]


I liked this a lot, but I was probably swayed by seeing a similarly cool premise to The Happening not horribly screwed up.

And a thought just occurred to me (which isn't helped by the acting, but humor me a moment). What if the monsters weren't monstrous at all, and the suicidal behavior they invoked was only because the "sane" people couldn't handle the otherworldly beauty? I am positive this wasn't the author's intent, but what if it WAS?
posted by DrAstroZoom at 2:28 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


I liked the book, though I thought it was a tad overrated (and I also felt A Quiet Place to be a tad overrated, so maybe I'm just snooty about this subgenre or something). The movie is a very faithful adaptation, but to its detriment since it doesn't have time to do things like develop the characters in the house.

In particular, the two creepiest parts of the book to me are the conversation with the guy in the river, which goes on for a very long time stretched out between flashbacks and you're always in doubt about whether the guy is really crazy or not, and secondly how Gary slowly insinuates himself with the John Malkovich character (who is not locked up) over the course of like a year staying with them and wins him over to his way of seeing things.

About the mental illness thing, I'm fairly sure that the story Gary tells about escaped mental patients doesn't occur in the book (although even in the movie version I'm fairly sure that's a lie Gary is telling). The presumption is that seeing the monsters drives the viewer insane, and that most people then wind up killing themselves; in the book version of the story, at least, I didn't find it to be a terribly offensive scenario in terms of stigmatizing the mentally ill, since it's all predicated on a fantastical premise in the first place.

I thought the movie was ok, but watching an adaptation of a book you only mostly liked is kind of an exercise in checking off plot points you already know about, so it didn't exactly blow me away.
posted by whir at 8:27 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


Saw this last night, and I thought it was a serviceable but not amazing post apocalyptic horror (which I didn’t need right now given my current anxiety at the state of the world) based on an interesting premise.

It sure had a lot of product placement! Keep that TY tag on the beanie baby, it’ll make it much more valuable when civilisation is reestablished and the market rebounds! Pop tarts: “That’s what strawberries taste like...” - lol, no, it absolutely isn’t. And presumably one benefit of 90% of humanity disappearing is likely to be the availability of wild strawberries on everyone’s lawns.

I liked the cultists and didn’t find their dialogue that bad, at least not relative to the overall standard of dialogue in the film (the exposition from the aspiring novelist was particularly clunky). The cultists were significantly scarier than the actual swirly monsters, which apparently you could evade at any time by simply shutting your eyes, frightened-6-year-old-style. The change to people’s eyes were a nice, fairly subtle touch, that became more apparent as the film went on. Gary’s drawings were a great way to get around the problem of an invisible threat, and I liked the diverse concepts that were drawn. And the Gary section overall was by far the best part of the film.

The main thing that sucked was the ending. Ludicrous, and felt completely bolted on and out of step with the rest of the film. I’m choosing to believe that they were tricked by the monsters in the woods, opened their eyes and saw something “so beautiful” - a fantasy happy ending where all their dreams came true.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 8:25 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


In the book version (spoilers to follow here, obviously), according to the Wikipedia plot summary, the sanctuary isn't a school for the blind, it's a place where a group of sighted people have chosen to gouge their eyes out to avoid accidentally glimpsing the creatures.

The thing about people who were "insane" before are immune to the creatures is apparently also a lifted directly from the book. Even though we get it from an unreliable source in the film, I wish they'd just left it out. It doesn't add anything. In fact, at least IMO, it's even creeper if there's no way to know what a given person's reaction to taking their blindfold off will be.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:40 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


The thing about people who were "insane" before are immune to the creatures is apparently also a lifted directly from the book.

It's been several months since I read the book, but I'm 99% sure that it doesn't say anything like this.
posted by whir at 4:56 PM on January 5


On the wikipedia page for the novel, it does say "people deemed insane are not effected by (the creatures)."
posted by miss-lapin at 5:02 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


I mean, who are you going are you going to trust, a person who read the book or a wikipedia editor who doesn't know affect from effect? If you dig back through the history there you can see that the paragraph in question was originally titled "Present day (film adaptation)" and most of the text still survives from that version. (It's also possible that I just missed this in the book, of course.)
posted by whir at 5:25 PM on January 5 [6 favorites]


...anyways, all of that aside, sorry for the derail and I agree that the implication in the movie version is ill-considered.
posted by whir at 5:29 PM on January 5


Oh my goodness I was just sitting in my living room and suddenly had a flashback to the sappy Iraq war anecdote, about escorting the guy to school. So cringeworthy.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 5:04 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


I reckoned it an interesting failure. I enjoyed it passably well, but for every well-handled notion (leaving unseen the Lovecraftian horrors driving viewers mad) there were three disappointments (the mostly leaden dialogue, the weird reductionist approach to mental illness, hiring the awesome Rebecca Pidgeon to do three lines and then climb into a burning car). I agree that if it had not been foreshadowed by A Quiet Place (and in a much more crappy way, The Happening), it might have been a lot more engaging. I am sure a month from now, I will not be turning it over in my mind the way I am still pondering, say, Upstream Color after a single viewing five years ago.

And despite having never even heard of the book and having no idea about the final reveal, the question, “wouldn’t blind people be exceedingly well-protected in this new situation?” came to me maybe fifteen minutes in.

As it is, the end result is a perfect example of what my folksy great-grandma Biscuit called “a day late and a dollar short.”
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:00 PM on January 6 [4 favorites]


The double birth scene really jumped the Baby Shark jump jump jump jump jump jump.
posted by larrybob at 8:48 AM on January 7 [4 favorites]


The scariest thing in this movie is the idea that a person could survive the literal apocalypse and yet still have to get that disappointed look from their physician afterwards.

I was kind of meh on the movie, probably at least 50% as a reaction to all the praise I heard before seeing it. The gripe that most immediately came to mind was that I didn't feel like the movie ever conveyed to me the sense of being one of these people who have to cope with this world without sight. Which is fine, though I feel like with a thriller I need to either be made to feel the sense of dread/fear/terror the characters do or I need to feel fear for the characters.

The framing device leaves me no doubt that only one person I am seeing is going to survive in the flashbacks, so though more than half the movie there's no "will they make it" stress. There's a small amount of wondering how they'll croak but in most of that you know from the situation whether they're going to see the monster and end themselves or be killed by a hostile.

My second gripe was that we get into the end before suddenly the unviewable horror picks up a speaking role. What? Why does it suddenly get its SAG card and go all Rich Little with the impressions? It felt like a cheat in a way Tom finding the will to kill the threat before himself did not.

I think I sound more negative about it than I feel, but overall this is right there with Bright for me. I didn't resent the time I spent watching it because there was stuff I enjoyed but I feel confident I could have spent the time watching something better.
posted by phearlez at 11:07 AM on January 7 [3 favorites]


I agree with the B- assessment. It's mostly tension, and it did a good job of that. Any other details were good to frame the tension, but breaks down if you think about them for too long, but the acting and pacing was enough for me to ignore those thoughts.
posted by numaner at 4:12 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


It was serviceable and would recommend folks check it out on a rainy afternoon, but I wouldn't call it great. It was mostly saved some very good acting.

As usual, the horror elements are eye-rolling, especially the one guy going insane by watching a video of something. It just doesn't make sense in any decent way, much like The Happening. So no defining the monsters in any real way comes off as lazy here.

Basically, the world has to end for this particular woman to be grateful for having a kid. Gotcha.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:54 AM on February 3


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