Bird Box: Just a whole lot of chirp­ing go­ing on

Just a whole lot of chirp­ing go­ing on

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - Front Page - By James Edgar Sia

Re­leased last De­cem­ber, Netflix’s Bird Box be­came an in­stant hit thanks in no small part to vi­ral mar­ket­ing gim­micks. Even now, peo­ple in so­cial me­dia con­tinue to spread memes about keep­ing your eyes closed and walk­ing around blind­folded to stay alive when out­doors. All this gives the im­pres­sion that this lat­est San­dra Bul­lock star­rer is a hor­ror flick peo­ple can’t af­ford to miss.

But is it, re­ally? Does Bird Box live up to all this hype? No, my friends, it does not. To ex­plain my an­swer, I’ll have to spoil the movie for you. I know for a fact that you’re go­ing to watch it any­way out of sheer cu­rios­ity or peer pres­sure, so it’d be best if you go watch it first. It’s not ter­ri­bly bad. Oth­er­wise, if you’ve al­ready seen this flick or you haven’t but wouldn’t mind at all if I spoiled it, then by all means... read on.

First of all, Bird Box is most def­i­nitely not a hor­ror movie even though it’s been in­sin­u­ated far and wide to be one. A hor­ror movie done right throws im­ages and sounds at you to make you re­coil in fear and per­haps even scream in shock and ter­ror, just when you least ex­pect it or af­ter build­ing up suf­fi­cient ten­sion and trep­i­da­tion deep in­side of you. Movies like The Ex­or­cist, The Con­jur­ing, and Shut­ter come to mind. Heck, even Spi­der-Man be­came star­tlingly scary at times in the hands of veteran hor­ror di­rec­tor Sam Raimi. Bird Box, on the other hand, does no such thing to the viewer – we see peo­ple killing them­selves and some­times each other in grue­some ways af­ter catch­ing a glimpse of the en­tity, but all this is pre­sented to us mat­ter-of-factly. Very mat­ter-of-factly. And no amount of hiss­ing, shad­ows, and gusts of wind eerily blow­ing up leaves can make up for this short­com­ing. To be more pre­cise, Bird Box is a post-apoc­a­lyp­tic drama akin to The Book of Eli or I Am Leg­end.

Speak­ing of I Am Leg­end, I’m pretty sure that those of you who’ve al­ready seen Bird Box can’t help but feel that the whole setup feels oddly fa­mil­iar. Well it is – and it’s no co­in­ci­dence ei­ther. Bird Box is based on a novel by Josh Maler­man (which I haven’t read, so I’ll just stick to re­view­ing the film adap­ta­tion). Maler­man wrote the book back in the late 2000s, when post-apoc­a­lyp­tic thrillers like M. Night Shya­malan’s The Hap­pen­ing and Cor­mac McCarthy’s The Road were all the rage. Per­haps it wouldn’t be a bit of a stretch to say that Maler­man’s writ­ing was heav­ily in­flu­enced by those two films as well as other sources. As I sat through Bird Box, I couldn’t help but notice traces of The Ring (if you see the en­tity, you die), Fi­nal Des­ti­na­tion (the sur­vivors are killed one by one in very un­pleas­ant ways), the TV se­ries Lost (bizarre cir­cum­stances force a mot­ley group of strangers to band to­gether to sur­vive), even the video game The Last of Us (a very ca­pa­ble adult ac­com­pa­nies a child across the coun­try to what is pre­sum­ably safe haven) and per­haps Apoca­lypse Now too (“Never get out of the boat”). Those who’ve been keep­ing their fin­ger on the pop cul­ture pulse might come to the con­clu­sion that Bird Box is a movie that tries to be so many things all at once.

We all know San­dra Bul­lock from her pre­vi­ous film roles as the tough and gutsy chick who kicks ass and takes names, but here she plays the painter Malo­rie. “Cool,” I said to my­self, “they’re mak­ing her play against type for a change by cast­ing her as an artsy lady.” I was wrong. A cou­ple scenes later and we find her deftly han­dling a shot­gun and other firearms, and she’s quite the rough and rugged sur­vival­ist for a woman who ob­sesses over paint­ing pretty pictures all day long. If San­dra Bul­lock had to re­vert to type yet again, per­haps it would have been bet­ter had her char­ac­ter been rewrit­ten as a mil­i­tary of­fi­cer or po­lice detective on ma­ter­nity leave.

Fi­nally, the way Bird Box makes use of its cast leaves a lot to be de­sired. BD Wong was ter­ri­bly un­der­used: he says a few lines and then dies early on. John Malkovich did not have much to work with as the old cur­mud­geon ev­ery­one in the house hates, but as al­ways he shines any­way, es­pe­cially when he en­gages in some ver­bal spar­ring with San­dra Bul­lock’s Malo­rie. And if it wasn’t for the screen time he gets to share with Bul­lock, Tre­vante Rhodes’s Tom would have been eas­ily for­got­ten.

I’m not say­ing that Bird Box is a bad film. It’s an okay watch, and therein lies the prob­lem. It’s been hyped to make peo­ple think that it’s more than what it ac­tu­ally is, namely a drama with su­per­nat­u­ral el­e­ments – or to be more frank, San­dra Bul­lock’s come­back ve­hi­cle. A bet­ter hor­ror-thriller with a strong fe­male lead and a very pleas­ant twist in the end would be Ni­cole Kid­man’s The Oth­ers. If you’re look­ing for some­thing more macabre, you might want to check out Bone Tom­a­hawk.


John Malkovich as Dou­glas.(PHOTO


The the­atri­cal poster


Malo­rie (San­dra Bul­lock) flees with her two chil­dren.

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