Written by Drew Schadegg
@SumOfAllFearPod on Twitter
Let me start off by saying I'm not a fan of critiquing movies. Movies are really hard to make and if you create one that is even mildly watchable, you've accomplished something few can lay claim to. So, Bird Box Director Susan Bierre or Screenwriter Eric Heisserer, definitely don't need some twit with a laptop telling them how to do their job.
With that disclaimer, I guess I'm now going to attempt to tell them how to do their job.
Bird Box was an excellent film. It was gripping, it had suspense, the actors were wonderful and the premise was unique and interesting. It had some nuance about a mother learning how to be a mother and in the most difficult of situations. True survival and instinct. No, it didn't borrow anything from Krasinski's A Quiet Place as the Bird Box book by Josh Malerman came out in 2014. It's original and it's very good. It could have been great.
WHAT BIRD BOX GAVE US
I haven't read the book, so I'm not sure whether it was a faithful adaptation or whether it took a lot of creative license or skimmed the surface whereas the book answered more questions. What we got with the film was a thriller that was palatable for the masses, just look at your Facebook and Twitter feeds to prove that true. It was easily digestible.
We had an apocalypse. We had the typical apocalyptic chaos that happens during these types of movies, but with a strange supernatural twist. People were killing themselves after seeing a shadowy creature that gave them some incite or personal vision.
This vision, precipitated by this other-worldy creature, is given no real explanation. The character of Charlie, who is a self-taught "scholar" who has been doing research on a book, gives us the only info that might lead to some explanation. It falls flat. It just leaves us with this universalist, self-refuting, post-modern axiom that "all religions talk about this weird, mystical thing."
That's all we get. The movie continues. Sandra Bullock's adventure begins. It's compelling in it's own way, but we never really learn any truth about why this crazy supernatural event is occurring.
WHAT BIRD BOX COULD HAVE GIVEN US
A really big opportunity was missed by not digging into the bigger spiritual questions. Was it God's great Final Judgement? Was it a cosmic karmic joke? Maybe it was aliens? Was it just a universal delusion precipitated by some chemical in the atmosphere?
The ability to take this from an easily digestible, surface level thriller, to something that would have us asking bigger and more important questions, was right there for the taking. They chose to keep it on the surface. It was a choice that didn't give the audience all they could handle. It didn't give the audience a plot that they would be pondering long after watching it.
I suppose if they had chosen the deeper road with maybe a bit more about what was behind these suicide-inducing monsters, everyone might not be asking whether you had seen this fun, new Netflix horror movie around the water cooler. I get it. It worked. It got a lot of attention and it didn't risk losing anyone. Maybe though, if they had just sacrificed a little of the mass appeal we might have gotten something that wasn't just fly-by-night entertainment, but perhaps something more meaningful.
Drew Schadegg is a full-time writer and co-host (with his with Kris) of the Sum Of All Fear Podcast where they breakdown clinical phobias and the horror movies that prey on them. Kris is a practicing Mental Health Therapist and Drew is a Marketing Director with degrees in history and theology.