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Bird Box

February 17, 2019

Bird Box (2018)
Director: Susanne Bier
Actors: Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, John Malkovich

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Synopsis: In the near future, a strange plague is infecting humans whereby if they see something evil (the film never makes entirely clear what it is they are seeing) they will immediately commit suicide. Heavily pregnant Mallory (Sandra Bullock) is one of the few survivors, and, over the following days, and in a flash-forward some years later, we witness her attempts to find a safe haven.

Review: We’ve almost reached the territory of pastiche now in the form of the latest sensorial, post-apocalyptic horror movie to hit our screens: Netflix’s Bird Box. I find it impossible to overstate just how phenomenally hackneyed the film is, and if it wasn’t for the inadvertent, wry chuckles that can be gleaned from the same old hokum tosh the film repackages, it would be an irretrievable turkey.

To list all the film’s risible elements is an arduous task, but to give a brief flavour of some of the ‘best’: we have the laziest, archetypal gathering of post-apocalyptic survivors early in the piece (the doughty female lead, the stoic male hero, the sceptic, the soothsayer, the early, sacrificial lamb); the horror sound effect of ethereal whispers and wind rushes is rote to the core; and the whole thing pinches/echoes all the best bits from a catalogue of ancestors – most obviously Ringu and A Quiet Place, though I accept this was probably in pre-production before A Quiet Place got released. The pressing question is surely which sense can be utilised next in the Hollywood horror factory. Touch? Where everyone has to go round wrapped in teflon or as massive, human-sized condoms?

Anyway, a momentary pleasure amid the prototypicality is John Malkovich’s wonderfully insolent performance as the weary cynic of the survivors. He is playing the role perfectly, though I imagine his character’s barbed quips weren’t too difficult to get into character for given the hyper-familiarity of the scenario. It reminded me of Alan Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and how that character functioned as an anachronistic, jaded chorus on the tired conventions of his villain role.

Call me a pedant, but even the narrative’s interior logic doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny. Why do criminally-insane people not want to kill themselves when they look at the horrific ‘thing’? Can’t resilient, hardened, non-criminal members of the public stomach the siting too? And how silly and risibly uncathartic when the film ends in a home for the blind (nudge nudge, wink wink). Bullock’s robust heroine now perceives hope in the world, so decides to confer names on the two children who had previously, didactically, been known as “Boy” and “Girl”. But the two characters whose names they’re christened with – especially the anomalous pregnant woman – hardly seemed worthy of this reverent, godlike status. (February 2019)

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