Review of Bird Box

This review will definitely contain spoilers.

“We are going on a trip now. It’s going to be rough. It’s going to feel like it’s going on for a long time, so it’s going to be hard to stay alert. It’s going to be even harder to be quiet but you have to do both. “

— Malorie Hayes

These are among the first words uttered in the film by Malorie Hayes, the protagonist of the film played by Sandra Bullock, to her two young charges ‘Girl’ and ‘Boy’ played by Vivien Lyra Blair and Julien Edwards respectively. They are important words, but not for the reason they are intended by our storytellers. They are important to the audience, because it is an unintentional warning about the slogfest they are about to endure.

Bird Box, directed by Susanne Bier from a screenplay by Eric Heisserer, is a horror/thriller that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world. The story is based off of a novel by rock band The High Strung’s singer/songwriter, Josh Malerman, who claims he wrote the rough drafts for his novels in the passenger seat of a vehicle while the band toured the country. The film takes place between flashbacks of the past (roughly five years earlier) to the present where Bullock’s character Malorie, and her two young children are making a dangerous journey down a river to a place that claims to be a sanctuary.

A sanctuary from what?

Before we get into that let’s take a look at our players.

Danish director Susanne Bier has directed films like Things We Lost in The Fire (2007), Serena (2014), and In a Better World (2010). Her films are generally heavy on the melodrama but her Twitter footprint is light and she seems to keep a low profile, which are points in her favor.

Eric Heisserer wrote the screenplay for 2016’s Arrival which was critically lauded but also worked on crap like 2010’s A Nightmare on Elm Street and great googly-moodily, Netflix’s original film Extinction (2018). A film I absolutely despised. To be fair, he has written three films I don’t despise: Light’s Out (2016), The Thing (2011) and Final Destination 5 (2011).

But that was the past. This is the present.

A quick look at Mr. Heisserer’s Twitter feed and you see that he, like so many others, has entrenched themselves in the politics of the day. let’s look at some of the trash he has retweeted:

Heisserer is a full-on lefty. I can only surmise that his political leanings have skewed so heavily in recent years that it has begun to affect his work. His offerings in 2010 and 2011 is a world apart from agenda-laden slop like Extinction…and yes, 2018’s Bird Box.

The Happening 2.0

So what is going on…we flash back five years to a pregnant Malorie (an artist) with a child from an ended relationship. We learn that Bullock’s character is not particularly thrilled about becoming a mother which should let us all know that this little dynamic will serve as her characters ‘arc’ as she finds herself entrusted with the lives of…you guessed it, children. At this point one almost expects Keenan Ivory Wayans to pop out from the side of the screen and yell “Message!”.

Side Note

Odd things stood out as I watched this film. Largely because the dialogue was not doing much to keep my attention. For instance, I contemplated why an artist would plaster a mountain of makeup on her face for an appointment with her OBGYN. Of course, this wasn’t the character per se, but Sandra Bullock’s makeup artist who, for reasons I can’t begin to fathom, the director failed to veto during production. Seriously, she looked like a Geisha in that scene, it was quite off-putting.

Her sister Jessica (played by Sarah Paulson who seems to be just about everywhere these days) stops by to shoot the breeze and happens to inform Malorie about a strange problem happening overseas. Now, I know many people despise M. Knight Shyamalan’s 2008 horror/thriller The Happening. Not me, I think it’s hilarious. I find the notion of a suicide-inducing neurotoxin or pheromone so spectacularly outlandish that I chuckle whenever I see someone ‘decide’ on how they want to off themselves.

Original author Josh Malerman asks Shyamalan to hold his beer as he picks up the baton to deliver even more ludicrous suicide-themed rituals. He presented an alley-oop laughable premise that Eric Heisserer gleefully slam-dunked. But not in a good way.  Nothing says efficiency like someone banging their head against a plate-glass window. Why not throw yourself through the window where the prospect of death is far more certain and expedient? No idea, you’d have to ask the head-banger, or Malerman, or Heisserer…but I wouldn’t hold my breath for an answer. At least The Happening suicides were shot in a way that gave them an artistic flair. The scene at the construction site where workers were plummeting to their deaths could have been accompanied by a soulful orchestral arrangement. In this film, we aren’t even treated with amusing or particularly clever fatalities. Well, the character Olympia’s (played by Danielle Macdonald) self-defenestration was kinda funny. I mean, if you can’t laugh at an obese person throwing themselves through a window you’re pretty much dead inside.

Yes, people start killing themselves and Malorie and her sister find themselves caught right in the midst of it. In this version of the happening, people’s eyeballs become speckled and they begin to ‘see things’ things that cause them to kill themselves, or to kill others. After overturning the car, with Malorie in it, Jessica proceeds to step out in front of a truck, essentially committing suicide.

Digression…do bodies burst like water balloons when they are hit by cars? I’ve witnessed a great many of my childhood dogs taken out by vehicles and not once did they burst upon impact like Jessica did…maybe humans react differently, those in-the-know feel free to chime in.

But what is happening isn’t nearly as ridiculous as why it is happening. A character named Douglass played by John Malkovich, whose direction from the Susanne Bier seems to be simply: “act like a jerk-face chickenbird” posits that this could be some sort of ‘bio-warfare’ attack.

A character named Charlie (played by comedienne Lil Rel Howery) offers what we are unfortunately forced to accept is the actual case:

“It’s an end game. Humanity has been judged, and we’ve been found wanting.”

Humans are under attack by demons or spirit creatures that: “take the form of your worst fears, your deepest sadness, or your greatest lost”.

This excuse coincides with M. Knights reasoning behind his aforementioned plant revenge epic. Humans are ‘ bad’, everything else is…‘good’, now finish your supper and get ready for bed.

I’ve stated many times before the SJW is a creature that despises its own existence and yearns for oblivion. The more we delve into the minds of these individuals and their works the more certain I am of this theory.

Creatures don’t break into people’s homes

It gets worse.

The world is suddenly attacked by entities, demons or spirits that infect your eyeballs and make you immolate yourself but who cannot enter buildings or homes. That’s right, like the vampire who requires an invitation before they can enter your abode these creatures are relegated to your front porch and must be content with hurling threatening whispers in your direction. Let’s replay that one more time:

These creatures cannot or do not enter physical structures.

In one fell swoop this movie makes The Happening look like pure genius. Not since Signs and it’s H2O-threatened aliens has a plot device been more inane. If you look through a window you are toast. They can even get you to off yourself via a video feed…”death by stereo” as Corey Haim’s character in The Lost Boys would say. But if you happen to be behind a 1 3/4 inch thick, 36 inch wide, 80 inch high piece of wood you are safe as…houses. This ladies and gentlemen is what we call a deal-breaker.

No explanation what-so-ever is given for this extremely convenient limitation. This is the kind of nonsense that should force you to pass on adapting a novel.

“Wait…what? They can’t enter buildings? That doesn’t make any sense. I’m sorry no one is going to buy into that, it’s too silly.”

You have to at least try to provide some sort of credence to such a situation. Some sliver of feasibility for which we can rest our suspension of disbelief. In this case we have nothing. As a result, this story, for those with a modicum of self-respect, was finished before it even began.

Rolling down the river

The bad continues…

In the present-day sequences Malorie is canoeing down a river…blind-folded…for about 48 hours. Folks…I wouldn’t know where to begin with this particular story element so I direct you to this…

More hilarity was foisted upon us when we were treated to the blind road trip. Malorie and several characters holed up in a house decide that it is finally time to go out and get more food and supplies. They determine the best way to do this is to drive of course.  Yes, the characters used GPS and the vehicles ‘proximity sensors’ to drive to the local supermarket. It was about an hour into this silly movie and I was ready to throw myself out a window. This movie is 2 hours long people. Malorie’s warning at the beginning of the film was beginning to sound more and more prescient…and foreboding.

Later on despite the warnings from Douglass, (a character who in the mind of someone who knows nothing about conservatives is supposedly supposed to represent) they let a wacko named Gary, who represents a new variation of the threat (people who see the creatures but instead of killing themselves become enthralled) into the home who eventually succeeds in wiping out 95% percent of the residents. Any attempts the screenplay writer made at pushing his pro-immigration agenda are pretty much rendered null and void at this point. This is the sort of thing that happens when you try to lace a story with something that doesn’t belong in it. Contradictions galore.

After this debacle, Malorie plays little house on the prairie for a few years with a character named Tom (played by Trevante Rhodes) until tragedy rears its head once again and we are brought to the present where Malorie, the rowing-queen of the planet, is making her way to Shangi-lah.

After a completely unbelievable recovery from a canoe capsize, a series of stumbling, falling, blowing leaves, and whispers from impotent, structure-deficient, spirit creatures Malorie finally completes her character arc and apologizes to her kids for being a crappy mom. She and the kiddies make it to the sanctuary that turns out be a school for the blind (of course). The blind inherit the earth with their sighted captives in tow and Malorie finally gives her kids some fricken names.  I think she named them Hansel and Gretel.

Silly premise. Silly scenarios. Silly movie.

I had my issues with John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place (2018) but they are infinitesimal quibbles compared to this poop-show.

Say something nice

The film isn’t a complete travesty. The charm that made Bullock a household name rears it head from time to time. One instance is where she trades barbs with Malkovich’s character in the kitchen. She doesn’t agree with the Douglass character’s philosophy on life but she doesn’t disagree in a hateful and fanatical way. She reminded me of those lovable liberals from the 80’s and 90’s who weren’t full-blown psychopaths.

1 out of 5 stars

Progressive propaganda rating….pretty darn bad.

  • An interracial relationship is deliberately inserted into the film as a form of virtue-signaling from the writer that does not exist in the book.
  • The Douglas character is a poor conservative straw-man stereotype created specifically for the film that does not exist in the book.
  • The screenplay writer poorly links the concept of “letting people in” with the current immigration debate.
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