Netflix’s horror drama “Bird Box” has been unfairly dismissed and ignored as a blatant rip off of acclaimed horror film “A Quiet Place.” That’s disappointing (especially considering “Bird Box” is an adaptation of a book from 2013) since, while “Bird Box” and “A Quiet Place” share similar tones and framing devices, they’re more companion pieces than copies. “A Quiet Place” examined a family trying to stay together during impossible odds as well as the extremes parents go for their children, while “Bird Box” is ultimately about learning to let go, and the paralyzing fear of losing our children to an outside world that we can’t understand or ever fully trust.
Sandra Bullock gives a stellar performance as Malorie, a single woman and artist who is facing a grueling pregnancy on her own. After a series of riots and mass suicides begin plaguing Russia, Malorie chooses to ignore the chaos and for once focus on herself. But when the horrendous violence comes literally dropping at her feet, Malorie has to figure out how to survive. Much to everyone’s shock, a mysterious force has been inexplicably unearthed, causing everyone who witnesses it to commit horrific suicides. Now with Malorie stranded in the chaos, she’s pulled in to a small group of survivors, all of whom are struggling to make sense of what’s happening. Meanwhile we jump forward in time, as Malorie ventures a dangerous river to make it to a potential a sanctuary with two small children at her side. How can she make it across the harrowing landscape when she can’t even see?
“Bird Box” is a riveting often disturbing horror drama that works along the same tone of “A Quiet Place” is but so much different when you get down to it. While Krasinski’s horror drama was about the end of the world, “Bird Box” jumps back and forth in its narrative, exploring what happened, and what the world looks like in the end. As an added bonus, the entities that compel every single person to commit suicide are left incredibly ambiguous, presented more as an allegory and heavy metaphor more than a material foe with claws or teeth. The writing especially helps to add to the immense mystery of the film’s foes, as while it triggers a self destruct mechanism within its victims, there are small vague hints of what the beings resemble every now and then.
What’s clever about the writing is that the characters have to face an enemy that they can not look at, putting the audience in a position where we actually want to see what’s triggering such a violent response. The violence is extreme and so damn stark, but also work as interesting explorations in to our characters without too much clunky exposition to slow down the momentum of the movie. The performances all around are top notch, especially from John Malkovich, and Lil Rel Howry. Every character is granted their own motivation for surviving, and the environment that keeps the survivors alive gradually becomes just as harrowing as what’s lurking outside the doors.
The two banner performances though are from Sandra Bullock and Trevante Rhodes, both of whom are dazzling as two wildly different people that find some semblance of affection for one another in the midst of the chaos. Bullock is especially at the top of her game as this woman who simply can not get close to anyone, but has to ultimately force herself to guide and protect people that rely on her, whether she likes it or not. “Bird Box” deserves a fighting chance, because it’s a pretty fantastic horror drama with a meaningful message and relatable overtones about the perils of parenting, and the dangers of an often dark, unpredictable world.