Bird Box, from director Susanne Bier, is a tense and exciting horror thriller about survival and motherhood. Beware the spoilers ahead.
The story opens on Malorie (Sandra Bullock) and her sister Jessica (Sarah Paulson) bantering as they head to see Dr. Lapham (Parminder Nagra). Malorie is pregnant. Malorie isn’t attached to the child she carries. She suffered a traumatic childhood. As the sisters head out, they see a report on TV about people in Russia going crazy and committing suicide in vast numbers.
By the time they leave the doctor, the mass suicide problem hits them in California. People all around them are going crazy. Jessica is driving and whatever-it-is gets to her. They have a spectacular roll over. Malorie crawls out of the wreckage. Because she’s pregnant, someone helps her into a nearby house.
That’s where the survival story really begins. The diverse collection of folks who just happened to amass inside this house at that moment have to join together to figure out how to stay alive. Some don’t make it due to heroism, some due to stupidity.
While the radio and television still work, they learn that you go crazy when you look at the whatever-it-is outside. Hence, much of the rest of the film is done blindfolded. We never actually see the whatever-it-is, but a combination of music, wind, and creepy noises create enough fear and dread to be effective.
As the story unfolds, we learn that there are a few people who are immune to going crazy if they look at the monster. These are people who are already crazy. But if you look into their eyes, bam, you go crazy. I thought the horror parts of the film were totally unbelievable.
Tom (Trevante Rhodes) is one of the strangers gathered in the house. Tom is smart and sensible and kind. He and Malorie survive the longest in the house. They fall in love. There are a lot of flaws in Bird Box, but I thought seeing Sandra Bullock and Trevante Rhodes kissing and having sex sent a strong message. Love is love.
The house also contained a very cynical and pessimistic Douglas (John Malkovich), who played his part perfectly. He always does. Cheryl (Jacki Weaver) was sure this would all be fixed when “they” came to help. Olympia (Danielle Macdonald) was pregnant, too. She was a sweet woman, spoiled by love. Malorie was the exact opposite. She was hardened by not enough love. If anything happened to Olympia, Malorie promised to take care of her bably.
Charlie (Lil Rel Howery) worked at a grocery store but was writing a novel about the end of the world. He provided the only exposition in the film when he described all the monsters from every culture that come to create the end times – like the whatever-it-was outside the door. Greg (BD Wong) lived just next door. Felix (Machine Gun Kelly) and Lucy (Rosa Salazar) completed the ensemble.
Malorie and Olympia had their babies. A boy and a girl. Eventually everyone died except Malorie, Tom and the two children. They lived together in the house for 5 years. Malorie called the children Girl and Boy. They called her Malorie. That mother gene was slow to kick in.
Girl (Vivien Lyra Blair) and Boy (Julian Edwards) and Malorie lose Tom. The children are five. They have to move.
About the birds. You were wondering about the title, right? Early in the story, Malorie rescues some parakeets from a supermarket. Five years later they are still with her. Birds alert you when the monster is near. Malorie puts them in a box and takes them when they flee.
Malorie decides to head down the river. There’s a place she heard is safe. She’s going to spend two days on the river, blindfolded, with two blindfolded 5 year old children. They are going to do the rapids in a rowboat. And that, my friends, is another very exciting part of the film. Beautifully photographed and executed scenes. The river scenes were filmed on the Smith River in California.
The dangerous trip finally makes Malorie into the loving mother she should have been. It’s Malorie’s metaphoric journey into motherhood. To cement the deal, she names her two children with real names. I do not recommend this method of overcoming childhood trauma in order to become a loving mother. On the other hand, the only person strong and hard-headed enough to survive so long was the one who wasn’t loved enough.
Bird Box boasts an excellent cast, but the film belongs to Sandra Bullock. She’s outstanding in every scene, every interaction. She elevates this rather unbelievable horror tale into an exciting thrill ride.
The trailer gives you a sense of how tense and exciting the film is.
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