By Seth Lukas Hynes
Starring Sandra Bullock, John Malkovich and Tom Hollander
Directed by Susanne Bier and based on the novel by Josh Malerman, Bird Box is an eerie and efficient horror film, despite its flawed structure.
Malorie (Sandra Bullock) and her new family must struggle to survive against supernatural creatures that induce suicide when observed.
After a carnage-filled opening, the film settles into a tense rhythm, as both the characters and viewer try to understand the creatures and figure out how to survive. Unnerving sound design, the claustrophobic interior setting and bursts of horrific violence generate an oppressive atmosphere, and disturbing twists on the formula, such as insane people who worship the creatures, keep the situation fresh and dire.
Bullock delivers a powerful central performance as Malorie, conveying a steely, reserved compassion. The characters are simplistic but engaging, and Malorie develops an adversarial friendship with Douglas (John Malkovich), who eventually redeems himself from his relentless bitterness.
Beyond some heavy-handed dialogue, the main problems in Bird Box are structural. While the flashbacks and present-day segments ultimately dovetail together in satisfying ways, the present segments diminish the tension of the flashbacks; if Malorie and her children are alive in the present, then obviously nothing can harm them in the flashbacks.
The film would have been more suspenseful as a whole if structured in two discreet acts, but Bird Box is still a disquieting bare-bones horror film, and is available for streaming on Netflix.