An impressive survival-based horror-drama. The cast is top notch, led by Sandra Bullock, and it works because it's all about tension instead of the tired slasher recipe many films in the genre employ.
Warning: There are some spoilers in this review but I’ve tried to limit them.
The Guardian said this of Bird Box:
Despite some tense moments, this apocalyptic shocker is a disappointingly clunky waste of a star-studded cast.
It probably comes as no surprise to anyone who’s read any of my previous film reviews that I wholeheartedly disagree with this. I have been disappointed by a lot of the horror-dramas I’ve watched recently but I thought Bird Box was refreshingly good.
The premise of this film is as follows: an evil ‘force’ spreads across the world and if anyone catches sight of it their greatest fears are realised and they immediately commit suicide.
Hence the cast spend most of their time either indoors with the blinds closed — because for some reason this strange force can’t enter buildings — or blindfolded.
The aim is simply to survive.
I liked this film because it’s all about tension. You never actually see a personification of this evil force. There are no monsters eating people or anything like that. You occasionally see dark shadows or hear a strange growl or some spooky whispering, but that’s as far as it goes. And it’s all the better for that because tension is where horror makes its mark as far as I’m concerned.
Bird Box was produced by Netflix and they pushed the boat out and attracted big Hollywood stars for the cast: John Malkovich (In The Line of Fire, Empire of the Sun, The Killing Fields etc.), Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight, The Predator) and of course Sandra Bullock as the lead, in which she does a fine job.
Susanne Bier directs and I think she gets the pace of the film exactly right, drawing the viewer in nicely. I was gripped by it the whole way through.
If I was to have one criticism of this film it would be that there’s no reveal. You never find out what this evil force is, where it came from and whether or not it’s going to go away. That frustrates my sense of completion but it does fit with the whole tone of the movie.
This film only had a brief run on the big screen, premiering at the American Film Institute’s annual festival and then getting a limited seven day release in cinemas before going Netflix-only.
It wasn’t particularly well received by critics, as the Guardian review I quoted at the start of this article shows, but it has gained a bit of a cult following amongst the public and even become something of a meme. There’s now a Bird Box Challenge where people attempt strange things whilst blindfolded.
I enjoyed this film. The genre seems to be obsessed with gore these days, which just isn’t frightening regardless of any special effects employed.
Bird Box gets it right and the critics are buffoons.