Bird Box (film)
Film release poster
|Directed by||Susanne Bier|
|Screenplay by||Eric Heisserer|
|Based on||Bird Box|
by Josh Malerman
|Edited by||Ben Lester|
Bird Box is a 2018 American post-apocalyptic horror film directed by Susanne Bier from a screenplay written by Eric Heisserer, and based on the 2014 novel of the same name by Josh Malerman. The film follows a woman, played by Sandra Bullock, as she tries to protect herself and two children from malevolent supernatural entities that make people who look at them go insane and commit suicide.
In a post-apocalyptic world, Malorie Hayes advises two young, unnamed children that they will be going downstream on a river in a rowboat. She sternly instructs them to not remove their blindfolds, or else they will die. From this point the film alternates between two stages of Malorie's story, separated by five years, until they conjoin: her attempt to navigate the river and the events that led to it.
Five years earlier, a pregnant Malorie is visited by her sister, Jessica. A news report is on television about unexplained mass suicides in Romania that are quickly spreading across Europe. Jessica accompanies Malorie to a routine checkup. When leaving the hospital, Malorie sees a woman bashing her head into a glass panel followed by others panicking as chaos erupts. Jessica sees the entity, loses control of herself as she drives, and the car overturns. An injured Malorie then watches Jessica walk into the path of an oncoming truck, killing herself.
Malorie flees on foot. A woman invites Malorie over to a house for safety even though her husband, Douglas, disagrees. However, the woman goes into a trance, begins talking to her dead mother, and casually climbs into a burning car. Malorie is rescued and brought into their house by Tom, a fleeing passerby. While recovering at their base, Charlie, one of the survivors who seems to have somewhat comprehensive knowledge of what could be happening, theorizes that demonic entities have invaded Earth, taking the form of their victims' worst fears and driving them insane before causing them to die by suicide. At Tom's insistence they cover all the windows, and they blindfold themselves whenever they must venture outside. Later, Greg volunteers to tie himself to a chair while monitoring the surveillance cameras to see the entity on TV as it approaches but ends up killing himself by rocking his chair violently and slamming his head into a hearthstone after seeing it.
As the supply of food decreases (and with the arrival of a new survivor, Olympia, who is also pregnant), most of the group go to a nearby supermarket. Malorie finds pet birds and decides to take them along with their supplies. The group attempts to help a coworker of Charlie's who is locked outside the supermarket begging for help, and whom Charlie describes as "a little crazy". As they contemplate the risks of opening the door, the birds go into a hysterics. The group is attacked by the infected coworker, who was not killed by the entities but is instead used to infect others. Charlie sacrifices himself to save the others, who are able to make it back to the house.
Sometime after, Felix (a survivor) and Lucy steal the car and drive away. Soon thereafter, Olympia lets Gary, a stranger and apparently lone survivor of another group, into the house, against Douglas's objections. Douglas threatens the others with a shotgun but is knocked unconscious and imprisoned in the garage. Later, Olympia and Malorie go into labor. Gary takes out various drawings of the entity and seems to undergo a trance, indicating he could have already been partially overtaken by the entity when he arrived. He opens the garage door to kill Douglas. He peeks outside and is completely taken over; he then knocks out Tom and proceeds to uncover all the windows. Olympia fails to look away and jumps out the window. Gary forces Cheryl to look and Cheryl repeatedly stabs herself in the neck with a pair of scissors. Douglas blindly attempts to kill Gary with a shotgun but fails, which results in Gary being able to kill Douglas with the scissors. While Malorie tries to protect the newborn babies (Malorie's boy and Olympia's girl), Tom recovers consciousness in time to overpower and kill Gary.
Five years later, Tom and Malorie are living together with the children, whose only names are "Boy" and "Girl". They receive a transmission from Rick, a survivor stating that they are well and safe at a community hidden in the forest. The four decide to go to the community but are ambushed by a group of infected survivors along the way. Without hesitation, Tom runs out to distract the group while Malorie and the children attempt to make an escape. When the group notices Malorie and the children escaping, Tom decides to open his eyes and shoot the group dead. He is overtaken by one of the entities, but he manages to shoot the last member of the group before shooting himself.
Malorie, the children, and their pet birds, which are being carried in a box to provide a warning against the entity, make their way blindfolded down the river on a boat. The boat flips in the rapids, but Malorie, Boy, and Girl manage to all find each other. Soon after, all three are separated when Malorie accidentally slides down a hill. The entities attempt to convince Boy and Girl to remove their blindfolds using Malorie's voice. Malorie is able to tell them to fight the urge.
The three eventually reach the community, a former school for the blind. Malorie releases the birds and finally gives the children names: Tom and Olympia.
- Sandra Bullock as Malorie
- Trevante Rhodes as Tom
- Jacki Weaver as Cheryl
- John Malkovich as Douglas
- Sarah Paulson as Jessica
- Rosa Salazar as Lucy
- Danielle Macdonald as Olympia
- Lil Rel Howery as Charlie
- Tom Hollander as Gary
- Machine Gun Kelly as Felix (credited as Colson Baker)
- BD Wong as Greg
- Pruitt Taylor Vince as Rick
- Vivien Lyra Blair as Girl/Olympia
- Julian Edwards as Boy/Tom
- Parminder Nagra as Dr. Lapham
- Rebecca Pidgeon as Lydia
- Amy Gumenick as Samantha
- Taylor Handley as Jason
- Happy Anderson as River Man
The film rights to Bird Box were optioned by Universal Pictures in 2013, prior to the book's release. Scott Stuber and Chris Morgan were set to produce the film, with It and Mama director Andy Muschietti attached as director. Screenwriter Eric Heisserer was in negotiations to pen the script. In July 2017, after Stuber became head of the feature film division of Netflix, it was announced that Netflix had acquired the rights to the book and would develop the film, with Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich starring. Susanne Bier was announced as the director.
In July 2017, Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich were cast in the film as Malorie Hayes and Douglas. In October 2017, Danielle Macdonald, Trevante Rhodes, Jacki Weaver, Sarah Paulson, Rosa Salazar, Lil Rel Howery, and Amy Gumenick joined the cast. In November 2017, Machine Gun Kelly and David Dastmalchian were also added.
Principal photography began in California in October 2017. Wilderness scenes were shot on the Smith River in the far northern part of the state. The house exterior is from a place in Monrovia. Cinematography partially took place in Santa Cruz, and the final scene was shot at Scripps College in Claremont.
The production used live birds during filming as much as possible, replacing them digitally for sequences when they became "agitated".
The film uses footage of the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster, which caused the death of 47 people in the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec on July 6, 2013. The stock footage was purchased from a vendor and Netflix stated it would stay in the movie even after a request to remove it from survivors of the disaster. Netflix later removed the footage and replaced with an outtake from a canceled U.S. TV series. The same footage was also used in another Netflix production, Travelers, but has since been removed.
Oscar winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (Nine Inch Nails) were hired to score the film. The soundtrack album itself was released about two weeks after the release of the film, on January 1, 2019. It was first released for sale only on Nine Inch Nails's website, and later on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify and other platforms. The released version consisted of ten tracks, totalling an hour and six minutes of music. In a statement on the Nine Inch Nails website, Trent Reznor said:
Like all soundtrack records we release, we aim for these to play like albums that take you on a journey and can exist as companion pieces to the films and as their own separate works. We created a significant amount of music and conceptual sound for bird box, a lot of which never made it to your ears in the final version of the film. We've decided to present you with this version of the soundtrack record that represents what bird box is to us. We hope you enjoy. For those interested, we will be releasing a more expansive (read: more self-indulgent) physical-only offering this spring that will contain an additional hour of music and artwork that colors further outside the lines ...
The full version of the soundtrack was released on November 22, 2019, exclusively on a special edition vinyl box set (with a digital download at purchase). The full version contains 13 more tracks and an extra hour of music, resulting in a two-hour (plus six minutes), 23-track album.
The film had its world premiere at the AFI Fest on November 12, 2018. However, due to the Woolsey Fire that hit California and out of respect for the victims of the Thousand Oaks shooting, Netflix cancelled AFI Fest's red carpet coverage scheduled for the premiere. The film began a limited theatrical run on December 14, 2018, before streaming on Netflix on December 21, 2018.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 63% based on 156 reviews, with an average rating of 5.73/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Bird Box never quite reaches its intriguing potential, but strong acting and an effectively chilly mood offer intermittently creepy compensation." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 51 out of 100, based on 26 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Brian Tallerico from RogerEbert.com said, "Most of the problems with Bird Box come back to a thin screenplay, one that too often gives its characters flat, expository dialogue and then writes itself into a corner with a climax that's just silly when it needs to be tense." Amy Nicholson, in a review for British newspaper The Guardian, gave a negative appraisal, awarding the film two out of five stars and concluding that "as the film staggers on in its quest to give us entertainment satisfaction or death, we're tempted to identity [sic] with the movie's first victim, a woman in a tracksuit banging her head against the glass, ready to get this painful sight over with." Writing for Forbes, Sarah Aswell described the movie as one "that embraces everything about the (horror genre) formula, both good and bad—this movie has moments of true, delightful, fright, but it also has some of the corniness and shallowness that many horror movies can't shake." New York Times found the film occasionally riveting and disappointing.
According to Nielsen, Bird Box was watched by nearly 26 million viewers in its first seven days of release in the United States. It also revealed that a significant part of its audience were young aged 18 to 34 (36%), female (57%), and either African American (24%) or Latino (22%). Netflix also released its own viewing figure that gave a worldwide audience of more than 45 million in seven days, with views defined by the company as the film streaming for over 70 percent of its time. The viewing figure was claimed to be the best ever for a Netflix film. This audience figure released by Netflix was met with skepticism from some analysts, who cited a lack of independent verification of the view count. According to Netflix, the film was viewed by 80 million households in the first four weeks following its release. A Barclays study deduced that, had the film received a traditional theatrical release, it would have grossed about $98 million worldwide.
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s) and nominee(s)||Result||Ref(s)|
|Visual Effects Society Awards||February 5, 2019||Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature||Marcus Taormina, David Robinson, Mark Bakowski, Sophie Dawes, Mike Meinardus||Nominated|||
Bird Box blindfold challenge
In Australia, Netflix originally partnered with four Twitch streamers in performing what they called a Bird Box challenge, in which they would play some popular video games while blindfolded. However, the challenge became widely mimicked on the Internet by individuals wearing blindfolds while trying to do ordinary activities, causing injuries to some. In response, Netflix released several messages over social media advising people not to undertake the challenge or hurt themselves. Nevertheless, in January 2019, a 17-year-old girl in a blindfold taking part in the craze drove into oncoming traffic in Utah and crashed her car, prompting state police to issue the same warning as Netflix.
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