Blog: Bird Box – Ashley Digs Deeper

The Story Geeks blogger Ashley Pauls responds with an additional perspective to the same topic discussed in this week’s podcast – the new Netflix movie “Bird Box.” Want to share your own take? Join the conversation in The Story Geeks Facebook group!

First of all, what did you think of “Bird Box”?

I don’t know that “enjoyed” is the right word for a movie as dark and heavy as “Bird Box,” but this film is intriguing, and I felt like it was worth my time to watch it. I’ve certainly heard a lot of buzz about it on social media, and it’s definitely getting people talking.

“Bird Box” might have seemed like a stronger film if I hadn’t seen “A Quiet Place” first. These two films have quite a few similarities, and I ended up like “A Quiet Place” more (but more on that later).

However, I would recommend “Bird Box” to those who are curious about it, because it is a thought-provoking movie that delves into some serious but important issues.

How do you feel about never seeing the creatures in the film? What do you think they might look like?

I actually really like the fact that we never see the creatures on screen. In horror films, what you don’t see is almost always scarier than what you do see.

The creatures remain this mysterious, terrifying, intangible force that we can’t explain. This makes for a more visceral viewing experience, helping us experience the film’s events right alongside our protagonist, Malorie (Sandra Bullock). She can’t look at the creatures without losing her mind, and the audience doesn’t get to see those creatures either.

I’m not really sure what the creatures look like (although we maybe get a hint from the creepy drawings Gary, one of the characters, looks through). The film does such a good job scaring us that I don’t want to imagine what the creatures look like.

“Bird Box” obviously shares a lot in common with “A Quiet Place.” What are some of the deeper similarities and differences between the two?

Both stories feature a threat to our protagonists’ senses, but in different ways. In “A Quiet Place,” the Abbott family can’t make any sounds, or they’ll draw the attention of the monsters. In “Bird Box,” the main characters can’t see the monsters without ruining their lives. Both films use their apocalyptic settings to play on our fear of helplessness and isolation. Basic human activities — like talking or opening your eyes — can get you killed.

The reason I ultimately liked “A Quiet Place” more is that despite its grim concept, the film still places an emphasis on hope and family. It’s scary, and some parts are really sad, but ultimately the movie does not leave you with a feeling of hopelessness.

In “Bird Box,” many of the people trapped in the house are fighting for their own survival, and are willing to betray or use each other. In “A Quiet Place,” the family is still dedicated to each other, finding ways to show their love and, in some cases, sacrificing their own safety to save someone else.

How do you feel about Malorie’s choice to name the kids “girl” and “boy”?

Malorie is already struggling before the creatures show up, and then the world descends into an apocalyptic nightmare. She’s not in an emotionally healthy headspace, and in the world of the film, she’s learned that attachments often lead to heartbreak.

So it makes sense that she would give the children labels like “girl” and “boy” versus actual names. If she allows herself to get too close to them, too invested in them, it will be that much harder when one of them is inevitably claimed by the creatures.

It’s heartbreaking, because we want Malorie to have some meaningful human connections, but we also understand the pain she has been through. She’s had to learn how to be tough and emotionally closed off in order to survive.

Malorie is clearly the center of this film, but there are lots of interesting supporting characters. Who were your favorites?

My favorite character of the film was definitely Tom (Trevante Rhodes). Apocalypse scenarios can bring out the worst in people, but Tom refuses to abandon compassion or kindness. We get the sense he was a good man before the apocalypse, and he continues to be one after. He’s willing to take a risk to help people.

I had a feeling Tom wasn’t going to make it, but it was still hard to see him die, especially since the relationship between him and Malorie felt so warm and authentic. When he died, I felt like the last bit of humanity within Malorie died too (at least for a while).

The film sets up the idea that the victims are seeing their deepest fears or greatest losses realized when they look at the creatures, which then drives most of them to suicide. How do you feel about that premise? Do you think the film shoulders the responsibility of touching on such a difficult topic well?

For too long, there has been a stigma against talking about suicide and other mental health topics in our culture. Too many people felt unsafe expressing their struggles, or had trouble finding help even if they were able to talk about what they were going through.

It’s encouraging to see those stigmas start to break down and people reaching out to support one another more, raising awareness about the resources that are available.

Having said all that, I felt “Bird Box” handled the topic seriously and did not trivialize it. This shouldn’t be a taboo topic, especially since fiction can open doors to discussions about important issues like this one. At the same time, I do wish “Bird Box” had done more to address the real-world implications of this topic.

Suicide is a serious issue — not a plot twist. I wanted the film to have a stronger message at the end, emphasizing that every human life is valuable and telling viewers “your life is important and valid and worth saving — you don’t have to be imprisoned by your fears or the pain of your past.” The film needed to delve deeper — and offer more hope — than it ultimately did.

Why do you think other people react differently to seeing the creatures and become “worshipers” instead?

This was a part of the story I wasn’t expecting, and I don’t know that I really have an answer. It seems weird that they would respond with “joy” when most everybody reacts with terror, so I wonder if maybe the creatures actually show these worshipers something different.

Maybe these chosen few see something that truly is beautiful to them, and this turns them into mindless disciples of the creatures. The creatures then use these people to destroy other survivors, who have learned to be wary of the creatures but might be more trusting of a fellow human.

How do you feel about the ending of the film and the concept of a safe haven centered around the blind?

As I was watching the film, I actually wondered if the creatures would have an affect on someone who was born blind. I am glad the film ended with Malorie and the children finding a safe haven, but I do wish the film had offered more hope about how to fight back against the creatures (like “A Quiet Place” did). I wish there had been a way to combat the despair that the creatures gave people who looked at them.

Do you want a sequel? What would that look like?

Similar to “A Quiet Place,” I don’t really want a sequel, because I feel a complete story has been told here, and any further movies might take away from the impact of this one. I’m not really sure where they would go with a sequel, unless maybe it could follow Malorie’s children as teenagers or adults who want to venture outside the compound and are curious about the outside world.

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