Bird Box (2018) — What you can’t see will drive you insane

“Surviving is not living.”

Justin’s rating: Tweet.

Justin’s review: The apocalypse of Bird Box isn’t a slow-burning one but rather a conflagration of terror that washes over the globe in a matter of hours. Entities — unseen by the audience but viewed by victims — has invaded the world and driven anyone who sees them suicidally insane. So quickly, everything falls apart as millions succumb to madness, and only a handful of survivors make it to safety before realizing that they shouldn’t look outside.

One of these survivors is Melanie (Sandra Bullock), a pregnant artist who’s terrified of becoming a mother and grieving the abrupt loss of her sister. She holes up with several others (including John Malkovich why not), bringing to mind the structure of a classic zombie movie. Except, of course, here you can’t look to see the zombies or figure out any way to fight them. All the survivors can do is blindfold themselves to venture out for food and use birds (which are agitated by the entities) as an early warning sign.

Eventually Melanie ends up as a mother to two children, which she coldly names Boy and Girl, and helps them grow up in this horrible new world. Her ultimate goal is to find a sanctuary, but the trip there may be too hard for people who aren’t allowed to see.

Very much like A Quiet Place, by taking away one of the character’s innate human abilities — sound, sight — Bird Box changes all of the rules of the world in a hurry. I remember enjoying the book a few years back quite a lot, but this story really functions best in a visual medium. The filmmakers genuinely want us to be afraid of seeing the thing we’re most curious about, letting our imaginations fill that space as scant details and unnatural sounds emerge.

Bullock’s Melanie is a departure from her normal bubbly, adorkable persona, more harsh and introverted as she interacts with the few sane humans. She is competent, however, and fiercely determined to survive without a whole lot of self-pity parties, and that’s something to admire.

However, while A Quiet Place soared with its simple story, Bird Box seems to settle for mediocrity. It’s at its most interesting in the first act, with the world going to hell and everyone figuring out the situation, but quickly wears out its welcome as people have those sort of pseudo-profound end-of-the-world conversations and get whittled down one by one. The more this went on, the more it felt very much like The Crazies, what with insane people embarking on shocking moments of bloodshed.

The big answers that the audience wants — what are the entities? Where did they come from? How does humanity have a chance? — aren’t answered to any satisfying degree, and so we’re left with a zombie movie.

You know, without the zombies.

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