Five years ago, artist Mallory (Sandra Bullock) was an expectant mother who was unsure if she really wanted her child, and despite the urgings of her partner Jessica (Sarah Paulson) who wanted to keep the baby, she was sceptical that she would ever find it in her heart to be a loving parent. One morning, with about a month to go before the birth, she was at the hospital for her check up when the riots that had been occurring across parts of the world finally ended up where she was, and incredibly quickly too. As the afflicted began to behave violently, committing suicide and attacking others, Mallory watched in horror as Jessica crashed their car and stepped into the path of a moving truck...
There had been quite a number of apocalypses where the victims turned abruptly murderous, in the pages of novels as well as on the screen, by the point director Susanne Bier's science fiction horror Bird Box was released, and that was to its detriment. Luckily for this, it was released on Netflix as well as selected cinemas, so according to them an estimated forty-five million subscribers, probably more, watched it in its first week on the platform, meaning it certainly found an audience, even if it was an audience of those too sated with Christmas food to bother to rise from the sofa and do something else instead. It was accurate to observe far fewer of those millions would return to it for another viewing.
This was based on a novel by Josh Malerman, apparently written after a close reading of Stephen King's book Cell (also later a film), which he may or may not have thought he could concoct a better version of than the master of horror. Bird Box had the misfortune to be released a few months after the similar A Quiet Place, only there you couldn't make a sound: in this, you couldn't risk seeing anything once outside as invisible monsters would possess you and force you to behave violently out of character. The earlier movie had cleaned up at the box office thanks to its winning high concept that director John Krasinski somehow managed to make a serious proposition and not silly at all.
How unlike what we were offered here, where the high concept creaked and groaned over an overextended two hours for what could have been a fun, dumb B-movie plot over with in eighty minutes. This wanted you to approach it with the utmost reverence, with not one joke in the whole thing, always a bad idea in a horror unless you're supremely confident in the gravity of your material, yet as it unfolded it looked like what it was, a heavily contrived premise to place its heroine in perilous situations that had no bearing on anything approximating real life. In A Quiet Place, everyone has been in a set of circumstances where they had to be silent lest they disturb someone or something, but you'd be willing to bet not one person seeing this had ever had to previously drift down a river blindfolded.
You had to be very forgiving if you wanted to get along with Bird Box, and it didn't do itself any favours in its solemn, joyless tone, especially if its intention was to use that as a contrast to an ending that was so convenient as to be absolutely ludicrous. Given it progressed at a snail's pace, possibly a blindfolded snail at that, to drop a final scene like that on us and mean it most sincerely was something of an insult to the intelligence, and no amount of attractive forestry was going to help. For too many patches the plot came across as being inspired by a parent frustrated that when you tell little kids what to do, they quite often ignore you or have to be told ten times before they begin to listen to you, but what kind of a motivation for a horror movie was that? Whingeing from outside a nursery does not a solid plotline make, and when in the present day a deadeningly unsympathetic Mallory tries to get to safety with two little ones, the idea she was rediscovering her humanity through this good deed was thuddingly rendered. It would have been all right if you could have laughed at it. Music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.