By DONNA BALANCIA
Sandra Bullock may get top billing, but John Malkovich keeps eyeballs glued to the screen in the way-out zombie ensemble, Bird Box.
This horror flick is destined for cult fame with suspenseful scenes, clever editing, and outrageously fun dialogue. Bird Box will keep the holiday conversation going for weeks. Think Jonny Quest meets Shaun of the Dead, complete with a range of stereotypical characters: The leader, the caring guy, the grizzled pessimist and the naive girl.
There’s two storylines in the movie and Bullock does her part in “The River Wild” aspect of the film, but it’s the group’s weird journey that gets the edge in this Netflix production.
The dialogue in this ode to the 1950s horror genre is the best part of the show, with clipped comic book quips and random statements in line with each character. After all, some of moviedom’s best lines like “Beat ’em or burn ’em they go down easy,” came from Night of The Living Dead. And imagine all this set to a Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross film score.
Bird Box writer Eric Heisserer is obviously a fan of the comedic horror genre, after all, he did write one of the Nightmare on Elm Street installations (2010). He also gave us Arrival, which he executive produced and wrote. Remarkably, Arrival (2016) was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won one (sound editing) and generated more than $106 million at the box office. For Arrival, Heisserer won Best Adapted Screenplay from several film critics groups.
Like a giant game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey, the picture carries through and, like a car accident, you can’t take your eyes off it. There’s no shortage of F-bombs amidst the dire situation … against what? And naturally, nothing works in this new apocalyptic world. At one point the GPS app with the sexy voice leads the group off course, but fortunately right into a Wal-Mart parking lot.
‘Best’ Dialogue Saved for Malkovich
Malkovich arguably has the best dialogue, his character is a combination of Professor Plum from Clue and Mr. Lahey from Trailer Park Boys. He takes a one-dimensional comic book character named Douglas and turns him into a riotously understated kvetch, along the lines of Alan Arkin in The In Laws.
Malkovich’s Douglas character does manage to cut loose a little in the midst of all the blood and gore — in the big box store where he pounds a bottle of white wine.
“This is truly the happiest place on Earth,” he says in the heat of crisis while hiding out with the rest of the gang in the liquor aisle. Malkovich’s Douglas calls people “doofus” and his casual “Better them than us” logic gives us a memorable new “Dr. Smith” opponent-ally a la Lost In Space.
But while it all may seen like good fun for Netflix and its audience, director Susanne Bier has portrayed a possible dark fate for the world if we continue to blindly follow the latest tech. Every bit of personality is virtually taken by the being — or beings — that are after the group. With no electricity and no cell phones of course the people can perish. And the voice on the news warns people to stay off social media to save themselves.
Bier’s direction is textbook B-Horror, with gorgeously framed dramatic close-ups and edited with rapid cuts in succession. Heisserer adapts the 2014 Josh Malerman novel.
Bird Box is a holiday throw-away for Netflix that will get a lot of attention despite itself.
Some favorite lines of dialogue from Bird Box:
“The world’s ending, Baby, so you never know … “
“Oh for Fuck’s sake … “
“Now, there’s something you can’t unsee … “
“We’re so fuckin’ fucked … “
“Take your blindfold off it’s beautiful arrgggghhh … “
“Aww … You’re only saying that ’cause we’re all gonna die …”
“We’re not assholes … “
“Who’s ‘Fishfinger,’ Charlie?”
Bullock told TODAY she had seen the script a few years ago and thought it was interesting: