After A Quiet Place, here’s another post-apocalyptic horror thriller that has a supernatural creature that becomes an epidemic of sorts for mankind. While the creatures are blind in the former film, in Bird Box, they are invisible; and they push the people who ‘see’ them to kill themselves.
The difference is that while A Quiet Place works as a thriller on face-value, Bird Box needs you to look underneath the horror stereotypes. What are these creatures? Why is it that some people who ‘see’ them, kill themselves, while others turn into propagators, hunters looking for more prey? What is the film actually about? Your answers to these will determine the effect the film has on you.
Director: Susanne Brie
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Sarah Paulson, Trevante Rhodes
What will be the right name to give these creatures? Is it bigotry and the growing violence that it fuels? It makes sense for me to think so; considering the fact that the ‘creature’ lures the person in as soon as they set their eyes on it. Several characters are forced to see it, baited with the promise of a ‘beautiful view’. The film says that it takes the form of your worst fear, deepest sadness or greatest loss. Does that become their entrance to the cycle of compulsive intolerance? Is that why a few further the creature’s mission while others succumb to it? That is a lot of questions, I know. But it’s this introspection that makes Bird Box intriguing.
The more the I follow this train of thought, the more indicators I get from the film that egg me on. The kids that live with Tom (Trevante Rhodes) and Malorie (Sandra Bullock) don’t have names; instead, they are called Boy and Girl. Amid a life that is peppered with supply runs, blindfolds, and perennial fear, Tom believes that the children need to believe in something. “Surviving isn’t living,” he says. And what could be more apt for a world that increasingly has more mouths to feed with lesser resources? Every time humanity pops up in the narrative, there’s an unexpected negative consequence. But humanity persists, even with casualties. Despite its bleak universe, the film ends on a glimmer of hope, a hope of an inclusive ecosphere — a dream that we all believe and aspire to live.
While the film does have its moments of visual splendour and visceral detail, it becomes the second Netflix film after Mowgli, that I wish I had caught on the big screen. The small screen does not always justify the frames that Susanne Bier has constructed, and this is one of the reasons why Bird Box fails to work as a stand-alone thriller. A theatrical experience would have amplified the sombre space that the film lives in. Ironically, Netflix has announced that more than 45 million people have streamed Bird Box within a week of its release, the highest for the streaming platform yet. Now would those numbers be possible with a conventional release? That, I guess, is a debate for another day.
This was originally written for The New Indian Express. You can find it here.