Bird Box (2018)

“The end of the world makes us do things.”

Bird Box begins a few sequences shy of its final ending then jumps back in time 5 whole years. That’s a decent trick when a movie is shrouded by ambiguity and mysterious editing, but this approach essentially sabotages the entire film from the get go because the story is so linear. Why should we invest in boring side characters if we know they’re just going to disappear? Bird Box starts by telling us the penultimate chapter, turns back to page one, and has the audacity to expect us to care about everything in between when we already know the outcome. Trying to be smart and different rarely results in something this laughably stupid.

“Under no circumstance are you allowed to take off your blindfold.” Malorie (Sandra Bullock, doing her best to save this debacle) sternly says this to Boy (Julian Edwards) and Girl (Vivien Lyra Blair) before they blindly drift down the rapids towards a possible safe space. Flashback years prior and Malorie’s still pregnant, getting an ultrasound with her sister Jessica (Sarah Paulson). On the drive home people begin behaving…strangely. Absolute chaos erupts and folks start killing themselves, including Jessica. Malorie’s left to find refuge in a house full of strangers, blocking the outside world – and lurking forces – from looking in. Everything happens as abruptly as this paragraph reads.

There’s tension in the house and a few decent relationships to help emulsify the wide array of personalities. Malorie and Tom (Trevante Rhodes) spark a hushed romance, she goes into labor at the same time as Olympia (Danielle Macdonald), and Douglas (John Malkovich) plays the typical “we’re all gonna die!” realist. These are the standard character archetypes for any kind of disaster film, but here they’re so forced and cumbersome that you’re likely to find more honest and sincere depictions of humanity in 2013’s raunchy meta-masterpiece This Is The End. We know who will survive in Bird Box before we even meet the newcomers, and that’s about the most ineffective and uninteresting sales pitch that this book adaptation could’ve branded itself as.

Bird Box then leaves the house and turns into a short, bizarre version of 1994’s The River Wild, running from an inexplicable alien force that drives you to suicide if you look at it rather than fugitives on the loose. And yes, the novel by Josh Malerman came out before A Quiet Place, yet that doesn’t mean this film is any more original. A Quiet Place is one of the best movies I’ve seen this year because it tells a deeply personal story with a unique angle, whereas Bird Box is one of the worst because it pitches an ultra high concept without first having a serviceable story (not to mention the film’s abhorrent depiction of mental illness). I’ve always said that I’d rather go deaf than go blind and Netflix’s latest original only further proves my point.

“I can’t trust you.”

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

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