post-apocalyptic

Bird Box

bird

It has been five years since dangerous unseen beings arrived. One look shows the viewers their worst fears, leading to that person committing suicide. Malorie, along with two children, managed to survive this long. Now they have to make a treacherous journey completely blindfolded in order to find a new place to stay safe.

Before I dive into this film, I’m going to address the elephant in the room. As soon as trailers hit for Bird Box there were immediately noticeable parallels between this film and A Quiet Place. Just know, this film was adapted from a novel of the same name by Josh Malerman, which came out back in 2014. So please stop all the talk about Bird Box being a ripoff of A Quiet Place. There are similarities, but they are two distinct films.

Director Susanne Bier (In a Better World, Brothers) and screenwriter Eric Heisserer (Lights Out, Arrival) did an excellent job adapting this story into film form. As Bird Box begins, viewers are thrown into the desolate, post-apocalyptic world five years after the beings arrived. Immediately we are introduced to the protagonist, Malorie, as a harsh survivor about to embark on a dangerous journey in the hopes of finding a safe place for herself and the children she cares for. The plot is interwoven between her current journey and her experiences from when the beings first appeared. Through this method the viewer is able to learn more about the beings as well as Malorie (and why she makes the decisions she does to survive this perilous new world). The format lends to some excellent character development not just for Malorie, but for the other survivors she encounters when the world first falls apart.

A truly fascinating aspect of this plot is the entities that bring about the end of humanity. Each person who sets eyes on these things sees something different; it can be their worst fear, their greatest regret, or something else. The brilliant thing is that we, as the viewers, never see what these entities truly look like, or even what people see just before they commit suicide. It not only makes things a bit more frightening, because it is almost impossible to know if one of the beings is near you, but it also makes sense from a financial standpoint, as there was no need for elaborate practical effects or CGI. There are some people who are effected differently when they look upon these beings, which leads to some very fascinating and intense moments. The entire concept is unique and brilliantly executed.

This film has a star-studded cast who all shine in their individual roles. Sandra Bullock (Practical Magic, Ocean’s Eight) delivers one of her most powerful performances as the star of the film, Malorie. There is a rigidness about Malorie that sometimes makes her less than likeable, but as more is revealed about the character it is easier to understand why she is the way she is. Bullock’s portrayal of Malorie perfectly shows that rigid nature, while also allowing some more tender moments to break through her hardened outer shell. Another outstanding performance comes from Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight, The Predator) as Tom. This character is the polar opposite of Malorie, instead being exceptionally warm and caring. It is the perfect role for Rhodes, and the juxtaposition of his portrayal of Tom with Bullock’s portrayal of Malorie makes for great chemistry and a number of touching scenes. Other great performances can be found in John Malkovich (Being John Malkovich), Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story), Lil Rel Howery (Get Out), and Danielle Macdonald (Dumplin’).

Bird Box is a tense, emotional, and even frightening film with a unique plot and deeply emotional core. Bier and Heisserer do a fantastic job bringing Malerman’s novel to life. The simple idea of an entity that traumatizes a person to the point where they commit suicide allows for great suspense. It also brings an element of mystery as the viewer never sees what the victims see. An intriguing plot and fantastic performances from the likes of Bullock and Rhodes result in a must-see film with a lot of heart. Bird Box gives the horror genre a strong end to 2018 that you won’t want to miss.

OVERALL RATING: 9/10

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A Quiet Place

quiet

In 2020 the world is taken over by strange and dangerous beings. While the creatures are completely blind, they have a heightened sense of hearing. The human race has been almost entirely wiped out. One family struggles to survive this new world where a single sound could mean death. They have the advantage of knowing sign language, but it might not be enough to remain silent.

There are so many things to love about this film. John Krasinksi (The Office, Away We Go) made sure to have his hand in nearly every aspect of the filmmaking process. He directed the film, co-wrote the script with Bryan Woods (Nightlight) and Scott Beck (Nightlight), and he also stars in the film. The plot focuses more on the family unit rather than the creatures, yet the creatures are quite terrifying. We know generally when they appeared, we know the creatures are blind and hunt using sound, but that’s about it. The filmmakers smartly avoid showing the creatures in full view until fairly far into the film. Many horror films try to over explain the origin of the monsters, but this film allows you to make your own deductions.

Since the monsters hunt with sound, much of the film is in near silence. This makes every sound all the more terrifying, and the entire film has an edge-of-your-seat tension. This also means the words that are spoken have much more impact. Speaking is dangerous, so if anyone in the family says something out loud it is something they find important. The only daughter in the family is deaf. While normally this would be considered an impairment, it actually ends up being a benefit for the family because they could already communicate with sign language before the creatures appeared. This form of communication is likely a large part of what has kept the group alive. The dynamic between the family members and how they live their daily lives in this new world are the driving forces behind the plot. It is a monster movie, but the plot goes much deeper by having compelling characters.

Acting in a film with such a small amount of dialogue takes a lot of talent. An actor has to be able to convey emotions with their face and body language because they are unable to use words. Krasinski is one of the stars of this film playing the father, Lee. A striking aspect of his performance is his ability to convey emotion with his eyes. Krasinski has a very expressive face that serves his portrayal of Lee very well. His real life wife, Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, Edge of Tomorrow), plays his wife in the film, Evelyn. Blunt is a very talented actress who shines in every role she does. Her performance in this film really shines when she’s protecting her children. The physical and emotional struggle of trying to remain silent in tense situations is something Blunt portrays very well. The breakout star of the film is Millicent Simmonds (Wonderstruck) as Regan. Simmonds is deaf in real life, just like her character in the film. Not only is it great that the filmmakers opted to hire a young deaf actress in the role, but Simmonds acts her heart out. She shows that being hearing impaired does not mean you aren’t as strong and capable as anyone else. The entire family feels real and authentic, making the characters ones fans will truly care about.

The creature design in this film is stunning. While the look of the creatures may remind audiences of other creatures from Stranger Things and Cloverfield, there are certain aspects that make them unique. We know the creatures hunt using sound, so naturally there are certain physical aspects to show they have enhanced hearing. These physical features look anatomically plausible, which always makes for a more compelling monster. The creature is masterfully created using CGI effects. The effects look startlingly realistic and include intricate details which would be difficult to achieve without CGI. While the origins and motives for the creatures remain a mystery, they are frightening and fun to watch.

A Quiet Place perfectly uses silence to generate high intensity into this monster flick. While it is suspenseful and exciting, it is also a film about the dynamics between family members in a post-apocalyptic world. The film has strong performances, fantastic creature design, and a unique story. This may be a bit nit-picky, but the biggest fault I find with this film is the very last shot of the film. Something about it feels somewhat out of place with the rest of the film and almost cheapens the previous events a bit. That issue aside, this film is one that every horror fan should see, and it is one that you could even bring your non-horror loving friends to enjoy.

OVERALL RATING: 9/10