Did you know there’s a Mayan prophecy that predicts the world will end in 2019 after becoming overrun with high-concept post-apocalyptic movies? First there was After Earth: if it senses your fear, you’ll get killed. Then came A Quiet Place: if it hears you, you’ll get eaten. And now, Bird Box: if you see it, you’ll want to kill yourself.
What’s next? A film where the monsters are attracted to human farts? All the survivors would have to go to a special reinforced room whenever they needed to let one off. They could call it Turd Box. It can’t be worse than this Netflix Original (a stretch of the word considering it rips off The Mist and The Happening, of all things) in which an occasionally blindfolded Sandra Bullock must evade the monsters which, when seen, make you kill yourself. Or possibly make you kill other people. Or maybe chase after you. The movie never really decides. But apart from the nonsense plot, bird-brained script and a level of characterisation you expect from the writer of Final Destination 5 (Eric Heisserer), Bird Box is completely awful.
To call Susanne Bier’s direction “televisual” would be an insult to television. Horror works when it places us, the viewer, in the film’s scenario, and it’s the job of the director to visually represent the characters’ experiences so that the audience feels them too. And in the visual medium of cinema there’s so much you can do with blindness and vision; look at the way Julia’s Eyes slowly dials down the visibility in order to show us what Julia can see as she’s going blind. Bird Box doesn’t have a single dark scene, just as A Quiet Place is never particularly quiet. You’re making a sense-based horror movie, why would you not play on those senses? And why risk your life doing the “Bird Box Challenge” when simply watching the film is challenge enough?
Based on a novel by Josh Malerman, from the excellent band The High Strung (that’s him singing on the theme song for the American version of Shameless), Bird Box is a risible waste of talent; Sandra Bullock, John Malkovich and Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight) are so much better than this load of old Bullocks, which is only “the film everyone’s talking about” because it’s the big one at the top of Netflix. Forget the Mayans, that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy right there.