Ellie Hogrebe, Staff Writer
The streaming titan Netflix delivered one last hit for 2018 with the release of their original film “Bird Box” in late December. As a dark post-apocalyptic horror film, it stands out from the fluffier original content Netflix has put out recently that is aimed more squarely at teen audiences. It has the power to generate streams from a large audience, from horror junkies to those who were just excited to see Sandra Bullock onscreen.
“Bird Box” follows Malorie, a pregnant woman played by Bullock who is struggling to survive in a decimated world plagued by a mysterious force that brings death upon those who encounter it. This unseen entity compels those who look upon it with naked eyes to commit suicide in a gruesome manner. Therefore, Malorie and the other survivors must learn how to live without sight. The windows of houses must always be covered, and a blindfold is a necessity for the inevitable trips into the outside world to find food and other essentials.
The film is interspersed with flashes forward to what is revealed to be the present time, five years after the onset of the unexplained phenomenon that has devastated civilization. At this point, Malorie’s son has been born and she is struggling to bring him, as well as another survivor’s young child, to safety on her own. The doggedly determined heroine must cross rivers and forests with two small children in tow, wearing a blindfold the whole time.
The concept of “Bird Box” is intriguing. People must learn how to survive in a dangerous world without the critical advantage of sight. It calls to mind another cinematic success from early 2018, the post-apocalyptic “A Quiet Place,” where a family endures an existence where they cannot speak for fear of drawing down death upon themselves. “Bird Box” caught my interest and I was expecting a tense, on-the-edge-of-my-seat thriller.
This film was not the tension-filled fright fest I was expecting. There were a few chilling sequences in the first half hour as the audience witnesses the catastrophic onset of the mysterious force that annihilates the population, but the scares taper off rapidly for the rest of the two-hour film.
The primary reason “Bird Box” disappoints in the “thrills” category is the nature of the monster that is bringing the apocalypse to Earth. This force that drives people to sudden suicide has no physical body or presence. It is indicated in the film by the sound of rushing wind or the sight of leaves flying through the air as they are disturbed by this malicious energy. Sometimes less is more, but in this case never seeing the monster or getting any communication from it made it a vague, forgettable villain.
“Bird Box” also crosses the line into unbelievability too many times. Characters do things with blindfolds on and eyes covered that cannot be rationally accepted. We are expected to believe that Sandra Bullock’s character navigates miles down a river with a blindfold on while keeping two young children on board. When their boat overturns in a stretch of rapids, she manages to locate the castaway kids in roaring water without being able to see anything.
Characters successfully drive to a supermarket in a car with windows that have been completely covered to protect them from the deathly force. They do not get lost or have any serious collisions. Serious movies, such as this one, should have plots and story sequences that can be taken seriously by the audience.
Despite these shortcomings, “Bird Box” is not unbearably bad or unwatchable. It has a few genuinely creepy moments, but it should have had many more. Bullock was the bright spot of the film. Her already moving performance would have been elevated if the story had been more dynamic. This film is disappointing not because it is a horrible movie, but because it is a mediocre one that had the potential to be great and fell flat.