The Box (2009 film)
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (September 2012)|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Richard Kelly|
|Produced by||Richard Kelly
|Screenplay by||Richard Kelly|
|Based on||Button, Button
by Richard Matheson
|Music by||Win Butler
|Editing by||Sam Bauer|
Media Rights Capital
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Running time||115 minutes|
The Box is a 2009 American psychological horror film based on the 1970 short story "Button, Button" by Richard Matheson, which was previously adapted into an episode of the 1980s iteration of The Twilight Zone. The film is written and directed by Richard Kelly and stars Cameron Diaz and James Marsden as a couple who receive a box from a mysterious man played by Frank Langella who offers them one million dollars if they press the button sealed within the dome on top of the box. However once the button has been pushed someone, somewhere, will die.
In 1976, Norma (Cameron Diaz) and Arthur Lewis (James Marsden), a financially strapped couple, awaken to find a package on their doorstep. Inside the package is a wooden box with a locked transparent cover, under which a large red a button is visible, and a separate note that reads: "Mr. Steward will call upon you at 5:00 pm". Promptly at five, Steward (Frank Langella), a middle aged, facially disfigured man, arrives. He gives Norma the key to the box and tells her that if the button is pushed he will give her one million dollars. However, someone in the world, whom she does not know, will die. Arthur, a NASA engineer, arrives home after work. Thinking the whole story is crazy he disassembles the box, finding only a button. After much deliberation and discussion, a desperate Norma pushes the button on impulse. Miles away, the police are called to investigate a report of shots being fired and discover that a man, Jeffrey Carnes (Ryan Woodle), has killed his wife and fled, leaving his daughter locked in the bathroom. The police are perplexed as to why Carnes, a NASA employee like Arthur, would shoot his wife.
Steward then returns to give Norma and Arthur the money, informing them that they will not know the person who next receives the offer. He implies that one of them, or their young son, may be the next victim. Steward leaves the house, returning to his chauffeured car in the street. Arthur realizes the bargain may be a mistake, and runs out to try and return the money. As Steward gets into the car he says the deal is sealed, and leaves. Arthur notes the license plate number.
At Norma's sister's wedding rehearsal dinner Arthur wins a chance to select a present from a pool provided by the guests, and he sees a plain brown box that looks exactly like Steward's. He opens it to find a photo of Steward before his disfigurement. Arthur asks Norma's father, a police officer, to run the license plate number of Steward's car.
After returning home, Arthur drives the babysitter home. She tells Arthur to "look into the light" to solve his problems. Her nose begins to bleed, and she passes out. Later, at a supermarket, Norma is approached by a woman who tells her to look up a certain call number in the library and not to trust anyone, not even her husband. The woman also passes out with a bloody nose. Norma's father tells Arthur that Steward's car is registered to the National Security Agency (NSA). He allows Arthur to visit the house where Jeffrey killed his wife and left his daughter locked in the bathroom. There, Arthur finds pictures of Steward and a Human Resource Exploitation Manual along with a library call number.
Separately, Norma and Arthur visit the library. Arthur approaches a woman he learns is Steward's wife (Deborah Rush), who leads him to a room that has three water coffins made of hovering water. He is told that two lead to eternal damnation, while the other leads to salvation. Arthur enters one of the gateways. Norma is led by two women to Steward, who informs Norma that he was struck by lightning and can now communicate with "those who control the lightning". She wakes up and finds herself back at home in her bed. Above her, Arthur hovers within a rectangular water module that suddenly bursts.
Back at the NSA, the NSA chief and Arthur's boss from NASA are discussing Steward. The chief tells the boss that Steward is "something else". He was struck by lightning and died shortly after; but, several hours later in the morgue, a nurse heard Steward laughing. He was transferred to a military hospital where his body seemed to regenerate faster than normal, with cellular degeneration halting. The NSA chief is next seen talking to Steward, discussing the 'box and button' concept, and Steward philosophizes about boxes and the choices mankind makes.
At the wedding reception of Norma's sister, their son Walter (Sam Oz Stone) is kidnapped. Arthur is forced to leave the reception at gunpoint by the wife-killer Jeffrey Carnes. He reveals to Arthur that he had been forced to choose between his wife and his daughter. He also shows Arthur the Human Resource Exploitation Manual seen in the pictures earlier, which contains, among other things, a diagram of the three water portals. Meanwhile, NSA employees are seen rounding up large groups of people, including Walter, and leading them into enormous portals of water similar to the ones at the library. Steward is overseeing the process; by his side are several boxes, identical to the one he had given Norma. Through a discussion with one of his subordinates, the boxes are revealed to be part of an experiment, conducted by "those who control the lightning" to learn whether the majority of the human race is capable of putting other people's lives before personal gain. If the results of the test show that the majority of subjects push the button, the human race will be exterminated. Steward also reveals that all the test subjects are couples under 40 years of age with one child.
Arthur and Norma return home and find Steward, who offers them a final choice. Their son Walter is now deaf and blind, as a result of being taken underwater at a motel swimming pool, and is locked in the upstairs bathroom. They can either live on with their million dollars and disabled son, or Arthur can shoot Norma through the heart, at which point Walter's sight and hearing will be restored and the money will be placed in an interest-bearing bank account for Walter. The couple run upstairs where they can hear their son struggling and calling for them, but he cannot hear them calling back to him. Norma refuses to see her son suffer, and begs Arthur to shoot her. A woman of a couple elsewhere pushes the button on their box, and Arthur shoots Norma, killing her. The police arrive and arrest Arthur, while Walter regains his senses and calls out. As Arthur is taken from his home, Steward leaves the other couple's house with the box. NSA agents and Arthur's boss arrive at Arthur's house. Arthur's boss assures Arthur that his son Walter will receive good care. Arthur is taken away and Walter is shown through an upstairs window in the home with his grandfather (Holmes Osborne) standing behind him. The final scene shows Steward standing next to his car in the street, looking at the box.
- Cameron Diaz as Norma Lewis
- James Marsden as Arthur Lewis
- Frank Langella as Arlington Steward
- Sam Oz Stone as Walter Lewis
- James Rebhorn as Norm Cahill
- Gillian Jacobs as Dana/Sarah Matthews
- Deborah Rush as Clymene Steward
- Ryan Woodle as Jeffrey Carnes
- Holmes Osborne as Dick Burns
- Celia Weston as Lana Burns
- Andrew Levitas as black ops Carson
- John Magaro as Charles
- Bill Thorpe as NASA administrator
- Allyssa Maurice (a.k.a. Allyssa Brooke) as Suzanne Weller
- Sal Lizard as Santa Claus
- Mark S. Cartier as Martin Teague
Director Richard Kelly wrote a script based on the 1970 short story "Button, Button" by author Richard Matheson, which had previously been turned into a Twilight Zone episode of the same name. The project had a budget of over $30 million provided by Media Rights Capital. Kelly described his intent for the film, "My hope is to make a film that is incredibly suspenseful and broadly commercial, while still retaining my artistic sensibility." Actress Cameron Diaz was cast in the lead role in June 2007. Most of the filming took place in the Boston, Massachusetts area, with scenes shot in downtown Boston, South Boston, Waltham, Ipswich, Winthrop, Milton, Medfield, Quincy, Kingston, and North Andover, as well as other localities. Some filming took place on the Milton Academy campus, and a large indoor set was built inside a former Lucent Technologies building in North Andover to recreate a NASA laboratory. The production crew also journeyed to NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, to shoot a number of scenes for the film. Richard Kelly's father had worked at NASA Langley in the 1970s and 80s. Filming also took place in Richmond, Virginia, including over head shots of the city, including 95 South passing the train station. Many background extras were reused in different scenes, and people with period correct 60s and 70s cars were encouraged to participate. Actor Frank Langella was cast in October 2007, and production began on the film the following month. Prior to production, actor James Marsden was cast a lead role opposite Diaz. Production concluded by February 2008. It was the second time Marsden and Langella worked together, the first being Superman Returns and re-teaming again in Robot & Frank.
In December 2008, it was announced that Win Butler and Regine Chassagne of Canadian band Arcade Fire, and Owen Pallett provided an original score for the film. Butler, Chassagne, and Pallett helped Kelly during the editing process by advising his decisions. Butler, Chassagne, and Pallett had planned on releasing the soundtrack after Arcade Fire's third album release in August 2010, but as of March 6, 2013, the soundtrack is still unavailable.
The film was first released in Australia on October 29, 2009. While it was originally scheduled to be released in the U.S. on October 30, 2009, on July 31, 2009, it was announced the release date would be delayed to November 6, 2009.
The film opened with $7,571,417 in 2,635 theaters at an average of $2,873 per theater. It ranked number 6 at the box office coming in behind the newly released Disney's A Christmas Carol, The Men Who Stare at Goats, and The Fourth Kind. The film went on to gross $15,051,977 domestically and $32,924,206 worldwide.
The film received mixed reviews from film critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 45% of 148 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 5.1 out of 10. The site's consensus is that "Imaginative but often preposterous, The Box features some thrills but largely feels too piecemeal." Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from film critics, has a rating score of 47 based on 24 reviews.
American film critic Roger Ebert, of the Chicago Sun-Times, gave the film three out of four stars overall saying, "This movie kept me involved and intrigued, and for that I'm grateful." Market research firm CinemaScore reported that the film received very negative feedback. The Box received an F, for which CinemaScore President Ed Mintz blamed the film's ending and was quoted as saying "People really thought this was a stinker".
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- "Phase 1 of The Box Website Now Open". Dead Central. Retrieved 2009-10-09.
- "Open The Box at Home". DreadCentral.com. January 6, 2010. Retrieved January 6, 2010.
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- "The Box (2009)". Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment. Retrieved 2009-12-11.
- "The Box: Reviews (2009)". Metacritic. CNET Networks. Retrieved 2009-12-08.
- "Roger Ebert's Review". Roger Ebert. Retrieved 2009-11-05.
- Ferrari, Damon (2009-11-20). "Film oracle CinemaScore spells doom for The Box". London: guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-08-06.
- Official website
- The Box at the Internet Movie Database
- The Box at allmovie
- The Box at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Box at Metacritic
- The Box at Box Office Mojo