Hide and Seek
As a child, I spent most of my time reading and writing horror fiction. Since then I’ve read a variety of different books in the genre and none have managed to get under my skin quite like Bird Box. Playing on that primal sense of fear and paranoia, the book was a great example of how to take a simple concept and spin it into a tense and suspenseful novel. When it was announced Netflix had snapped up the rights to a feature film, I was sceptical it would manage to capture that raw sense of dread and despair so prevalent in the novel.
With the core elements of the book intact, Bird Box does an excellent job mirroring the suspense and paranoia with just enough adaptations to make it fit to a blockbuster film format. While some of the editing does spoil the tension, showing key moments from the final act throughout the story, Bird Box is a well written thriller nonetheless, one that does justice to the excellent book it’s based on.
As news reports come in of mass hysteria worldwide, the story picks up with expectant Mum Malorie caught in the worldwide panic driving back from a baby scan. This suicidal infection is brought on by looking directly at invisible creatures that have appeared around the planet. After her sister succumbs to the virus, Malorie scrambles for refuge at a nearby house with a ragtag group of survivors. With the blinds drawn and the lights off, the group try to wait out the storm of panic. As things settle down, the story takes a much more methodical pace after an adrenaline fuelled opening. Tension begins to mount and paranoia grows within the group. Malorie gets closer to giving birth and the realisation slowly begins settling in for those inside the house – no one is coming to save them.
The story plays out really well, with some incredible tense and suspenseful moments during key moments of the film. Unfortunately Bird Box’s mystery is spoilt by the film’s haphazard editing. A segment involving Malorie on a boat in the future gives clues over who has and hasn’t survived making the past segments, and the bulk of the film, lacking in tension. When Malorie is threatened in the house we know she survives. When she goes into a dark room alone we know she survives. It’s such a shame too and something that really detracts from these past segments.
Sandra Bullock does a fantastic job as the estranged mother though and her relationship with the kids is something that’s a recurring theme throughout the film. In that respect, Bird Box is much more about Malorie than it is the downfall of humanity, showing her journey into motherhood and the mystery and horror that lies with that. The supporting cast play their roles well too, with John Malkovich settling into the role of paranoid Douglas nicely and Danielle Macdonald portraying a spitting image of how I imagined Olympia in the book.
With a good balance of horror and thriller elements, Bird Box is likely to be compared to A Quiet Place for the way it plays on primal senses. With a well written plot and a decent group of characters at its core, Bird Box is an exciting and tense ride from start to finish. The editing is a bit disappointing though and certainly takes away some of the suspense. Still, Bird Box is well worth checking out, paying homage to a great book, even if it does have a few flaws holding it back from being a better title.