Friday, April 03, 2020

Bird Box (2018)

For reasons I'm sure you can guess, I've been feeling more inclined to watch vaguely (and explicitly) apocalyptic films, lately. I don't want disease, because... too soon... but zombies and other stuff is fair game. With this in mind, it seemed like a good time to give Bird Box a try, as the initial "meh!" reviews put me off when it first dropped on Netflix. How bad could it be, though? I was still interested enough to chance it.

The first time I heard about this I thought (cw: Harry Potter) "HORROR BOGGART!" and it still stands, to be honest. Directed by Susanne Bier, based on a story by American novelist Josh Malerman (the screenplay by Eric Heisserer) we join the story switching between current day and flashback, meeting Malorie (Sandra Bullock), her sister (criminally under-used Sarah Paulson!) and gradually some other characters in a Dawn of the Dead (2004) type ensemble cast of people stuck together in one location. 

Trope roll call!
  • Sexy, tough female
  • Tattooed, creepy skinny guy who wants to fuck (it's Machine Gun Kelly but I'm old and don't know who that is *shrug*)
  • Grumpy widow (hi, John Malkovich)
  • Funny black dude
  • Soft-hearted lady who makes dubious decisions
  • Competent/kind/hot war veteran

Malorie stands out at the obvious lead here. She's tough, smart, empathetic - and heavily pregnant. She doesn't take shit and doesn't suffer the selfish whims of others gladly. Throughout this flashback we see the incredibly rapid end of the world (as they know it) from weird news stories ("don't worry, it's happening in another country, not here" - gulp!) to people behaving oddly, to full on societal crumble in a matter of minutes.

I am a stone cold sucker for tipping point apocalypse stuff, so this may have been my favourite aspect of Bird Box. The subtlety of the initial weirdness, paving way for the eventual riot and complete destruction of humanity. I dig it, although this stretch of the movie is pretty predictable for anyone remotely aware of the narrative beats of this genre. 

End-of-world ensemble emotions roll call!
  • Suspicion
  • In-fighting
  • Bonding
  • Double-crossing
  • Loss
  • Deception

You know what I'm talking about.

The threat to these characters works well enough; you either lose your mind and commit suicide upon seeing the monsters, or you lose your mind and try to convert others to look at them. There's some not-very-gross-but-still-cool eye effects work, too.

What didn't catch for me were the gigantic leaps in logic and suspension of disbelief required for this story. I've said many times before that when I, Jo, say this, it's a big red flag. I don't usually get this shit stuck in my throat with movies; I'll pick up just about anything you are putting down. However, Bird Box puts down a little too much. Between driving blind from a suburban neighbourhood to a supermarket literally only using the GPS (and said device not functioning the way normal ones do) to lapses in logic when it comes to personal safety when looting... this was a lot for me swallow from a film that was just okay.

It also confirmed something I already knew: I am a horrible person. I turned to my partner and said "I hope one of the kids dies in this". Oops? But I did! I needed something to sink my teeth into! They didn't have the courage to do anything other than mild peril, though.

Speaking of, interestingly (but not surprisingly) the book this was based on had a much more downbeat ending. Malorie reaches her destination, but rather than a paradise of smiling people and a former school for the blind, the book describes a place where the inhabitants have willingly blinded themselves so as not to fall prey to the monsters, and the "sanctuary" offers little more than what the family had already. Points deducted for shaving the sharp edges off of that, Bird Box producers! 

Apocalypse-lite. Streaming on Netflix now.

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