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Friday, January 4, 2019

Bird Box: Definitely Watch, Don't Do

I'm not usually a fan of post-apocalyptic horror - I even gave up on The Walking Dead last year - but Bird Box on Netflix is something else.  That is, it's post-apocalyptic horror alright, but done with such sensitivity and style as to be in a class by itself.  It also doesn't hurt to see top talent like Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich on the screen, along with newer talent like Trevante Rhodes who does a fine job, too.

The story is a take on the ancient Medusa myth.   If you looked at her, you would turn to stone.  In Bird Box, some hideous creatures that we never actually see afflict our world.  To look at them is to go crazy, in one of two ways.  Either you commit suicide, which is what happens to most onlookers, or you become an agent of the creatures, with a view to convincing other humans to look at these "beautiful" things.  In that sense, Bird Box is also in the tradition of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

In such a world, the only way to survive is to be indoors with the curtains drawn, in a car with the windows covered and the driver can't look outside either, or if you're outside on foot make sure you wear a blindfold, too.  (This has jumped off screen and led to the Bird Box challenge, which Netflix has warned against.)  In the movie, driving with blindfold requires reliance on GPS - in one of the best scenes of the movie - and you know how reliable GPS is even in a world without monsters.

Bullock plays Malorie, a mother of two little kids, and Malkovich someone who professes to never be wrong (and he's right).  I won't say  more about plot, because there are many jolts you'd be better off seeing uninformed.  But I will say that I did guess one of the key plot points, which is that blind people have an edge in this world on the precipice of insanity and death.  (This also harkens back to Marshall McLuhan's view that in his explorations of media he was like a blind man with a cane, tapping the world for deeper resonances, not distracted by visual biases; see McLuhan and Nevitt, Take Today: The Executive as Dropout, 1972, p. 8).

Beautifully photographed.  Directed by Susanne Bier from a screenplay by Eric Heisserer from the novel by Josh Malerman, and highly recommended.

brief interview with Josh Malerman

winner, Locus Award, Best 1st Science Fiction Novel, 1999

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