Review: Bird Box

This week’s review sees us drifting downriver with a blindfolded Sandra Bullock and two scared kids as we take a look at another Netflix original: Bird Box.

Why now?

Bird Box began streaming (no pun intended) worldwide on 21 December 2018.

In a nutshell

The film starts off with Bullock’s character Malorie telling a young boy and girl that they’ll be taking a boat down river, and not to remove their blindfolds for the duration of the journey, otherwise they’ll die. Skip back five years and we see why, as supernatural entities begin appearing around the world, causing anyone who looks at them to immediately commit suicide.

Who’s it for?

Anyone over the age of 15, if the certification people are to be obeyed. There isn’t a whole lot of anything in this movie other than violent death scenes that would require a viewer to be a bit older, but it’s certainly not for children or those of a nervous disposition.

Who’s in it?

Bird Box has a nice little cast. Sandra Bullock is the protagonist supported by Trevante Rhodes, BD Wong, Tom Hollander, Jacki Weaver and John Malkovich, among others.

Bullock is, as you might expect, as strong as ever in the lead role – assured, funny, empathetic and believable playing Malorie, a character who’s well capable of preserving herself and others while remaining vulnerable enough in the midst of an apocalyptic situation for us to relate to her as a person (not that we’ve been in too many end-of-the-world scenarios, but you know what I mean).

Malkovich puts in a notable performance as Douglas (are we supposed to hate him or like him?) while Rhodes is a strong support for Bullock’s lead. Hollander is sufficiently creepy in his role, too.

The good stuff

I’ve recently acquired an inexplicable taste for horror movies, so I couldn’t resist flicking this one on as soon as I watched the trailer. And it didn’t disappoint – it is scary, and it is a relatively-fresh breath of air in its genre. And it’s another bull’s-eye for Netflix’s efforts in horror after the superb Annihilation.

I enjoy movies where a group of random strangers are thrust together and have to collectively figure out how to survive. I wouldn’t do so well in that scenario myself, but it’s fun watching others have a go at it. The plot of the movie, which cuts back and forth between the river journey and how it all kicked off five years prior, is engaging enough to keep you hooked in without giving you too much of a chance to dig any deeper into potential plot-holes; the tension is pumped steadily into the house where much of the retrospective action takes place and when the scares do come, they’re worth the wait.

The filmmakers also employed a clever trick to maintain the suspense, one that directors have used countless times in the past to great effect – you don’t see the monsters for a very long time (or in this instance, technically not at all). Think of the shark in Jaws, the T-Rex in Jurassic Park, or Norma Bates in Psycho. The suggestion of horror in Bird Box is often greater than what’s actually seen, and that makes it all the more powerful.

The not so good stuff

As mentioned previously, Bird Box is a relatively-fresh idea, but it’s not totally original. M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening (which is a terrible movie) was centred on the same idea of people committing suicide under the influence of some invisible entity, so I felt like this one was a slight rip-off. Indeed, Josh Malerman, who wrote the novel on which the film is based, feared that his rough draft (written prior to The Happening) was too similar to Shyamalan’s idea and would be passed over. This is a much better take on the idea, though, so he needn’t worry.

My only other gripe was the ending, which was a bit of a come-down after all the tension leading up to it – it’s not the worst, but a little more closure would have helped.

The bottom line

Bird Box is another solid horror showing from Netflix, and well worth a watch. It’s plenty scary and intelligently executed by the filmmakers and cast. I enjoyed it a lot and will definitely give it a second viewing at some stage.

Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Posted by
David McIlroy

Freelance writer/contributor based in Northern Ireland. Degrees in English, Film and Youth Work. Married to the beautiful Christine. My main things: God, family, movies, reading, and Liverpool FC.