In the Susanne Bier-directed Bird Box, which Netflix releases in limited theaters December 13 before streaming worldwide on December 21, Sandra Bullock plays a woman who fights to protect her two children during the onset of an unseen apocalypse.
Bird Box is interestingly similar to A Quiet Place, only has been in development since 2013 when IT and Mama director Andy Muschietti was attached to direct. While the latter focuses on sound, Bird Box takes on sight. In this thriller, the apocalypse hits like a storm when people randomly commit suicide after seeing “something”. In a sequence awfully similar to the opening of “American Horror Story: Apocalypse”, Bullock’s newly-pregnant Malorie eventually finds shelter in a house with Douglas (John Malkovich) and several others.
While this all may sound exciting, Bird Box struggles to find momentum and to escape its cliché ties to the genre. The film actually opens in the present, with Malorie and the two children pushing their way down river – blindfolded. She’s stern – maybe even a little mean as she explains “the rules”. In an attempt to keep the film energized, the story switches back and forth between the trio’s fight for survival and Malorie’s experiences within the house that birthed the children. While the former is reminiscent of A Quiet Place, the latter plays out like a George A. Romero zombie film or even Stephen King’s “The Mist”. Unfortunately, it’s painful watching these survivors bicker back and forth as they’re about as generic as they come. The script can’t escape horror history as the characters feel more like xerox copies of previous protagonists/antagonists, only less interesting and bloated with unnecessary exposition.
Still, Bird Box has its moments, including a fun gag with car sensors, plenty of violence, and of course, Bullock’s performance. What’s unfortunate is that this comes after A Quiet Place, a far superior film that smartly leaves the past behind and focuses more on the suspensful present. Bird Box‘s cross-editing is not only disengaging, but leaves the viewer stuck in a house for the majority of the film. If anything, the best moments come when Malorie and the children are blindfolded and terrified in the middle of nowhere.
Bird Box isn’t awful, but it is pretty bland. With the amount of content unrolling this holiday season, you could do a lot better than this.