Film Review: BIRD BOX (USA 2018) ***1/2

Bird Box Poster

A woman and a pair of children are blindfolded and make their way through a dystopian setting along a river.


Susanne Bier


Eric Heisserer (screenplay), Josh Malerman (novel)

It had to happen after the box-office phenomenon of John Krasinski’s A QUIET PLACE – a female version of a horror dystopian setting of a film that could alternatively be called A DARK PLACE.  In BIRD BOX, the characters are not allowed to see or contact a virus of some sort that would kill them.  The protagonist is a female and so is the director, Dane Susanne Bier who has made a few acclaimed foreign films.  She brings structure, insight, craft and emotion into an otherwise run of the mill futuristic film.

BIRD BOX is an American post-apocalyptic horror film directed by Susanne Bier and with a screenplay by Eric Heisserer, based on the 2014 novel of the same name by Josh Malerman.

The script is radically different from Malerman’s novel.  Quite a few incidents have been omitted like the wolf attack or simplified like the sister’s death.  The ending is softened to a happier one.  So as not to give off a spoiler, one should read the book (or the summary available on wikipedia) to discover what real horrors took place in order for the survivors to live in the sanctuary.

So what is the reason behind this end of the world scenario?  In Alfred Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS, a  hysterical woman offers her theory while customers are held up at a gas station bar.  In BIRD BOX, one character offers his educated sounding theory to those held up in the house.  But another calls him out.  “And where do you work?  In a  grocery store?  Then he claims he is writing a book on the end of the world while getting all his research from the internet.  Another satirical moment occurs when the crazed John Malkovich character that he will make the end of the world great again.

The film follows a young woman (Sandra Bullock) who, along with a pair of unnamed children, (called boy and girl, for reasons made apparent in the film) must make it through a forest and river that includes rapids, blindfolded to avoid a supernatural entity that takes the appearance of its victims worst fears and causes them to commit suicide.  The film is called BIRD BOX because the woman carries a box of birds – the birds immune to the epidemic, supposed to be able to warn them and guide them to safety.  As the journey unfolds (with title indicating the number of days on river), flashbacks, set in the period 5 years earlier explain what happened prior to the woman and three children before being left to their own devices.  As the time period closes in to the present, the story gets a little confusing though not difficult to discern with a little thinking.

Before the 3 are left by themselves, there is a period where the woman and a few others  are held up in different places that include a house and a grocery story.  The group is played by a variety of known and excellent actors that includes Trevante Rhodes, Jacki Weaver, Rosa Salazar, Danielle Macdonald, Lil Rel Howery, Tom Hollander, BD Wong, Sarah Paulson and John Malkovich.  This is the film’s best segment. They argue vehemently with each other as to what to do.  This potion is reminiscent of the excellent original 2000 Spanish film, Alex de la Iglsia’s LE BAR (THE BAR), where an assortment of characters are held up in a bar while a disease is occurring outside and they cannot let anyone in for fear of being contaminated.

BIRD BOX is to be commended as an excellent dystopian futuristic film with strong female content and ethic diversity.


Film Review: THE PREDATOR (USA 2018)


The Predator Poster

When a young boy accidentally triggers the universe’s most lethal hunters’ return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race.


Shane Black

It is hard to keep track the number of PREDATOR movies.  So popular they have become that there are many social media groups just dedicated to those movies.  Counting the two ALIENS vs. PREDATOR spin-offs, this PREDATOR 2018 is the 6th in the franchise.  

The director Shane Black (IRON MAN 3, THE NICE GUYS) started off as an actor in the original Arnold Schwarzenegger 1987 film, his character killed off by the predator in that one, hired because he could also be standing in as an emergency scriptwriter for James Cameron.  In this film, it was reported that the script was occasionally written within 10 minutes in Black’s trailer before it being filmed.  It shows.  The story is crap, the narrative is weak and a lot of what transpires on screen make no sense.  It totally believable that the script was incomplete before the first shoot.  The story for what it is – centres on one man and his group of PTSD soldiers taking out invading predators.  The leader is an ex-soldier (Boyd Holbrook) aided by a biologist (Olivia Munn) who has to put up with quite a lot of male chauvinist bullshit. That is the extent of the plot – the rest is smart talk, or maybe improvised dialogue that if written done just before shooting.  It is all blood, violence gore and foul language.

Canada’s own Jacob Tremblay has the role of the little boy, the innocent faced son caught in the predator crossfire.  He accidentally mistakes the predator’s armour as a Halloween costume wearing it out trick or treating creating a few mega blow-ups.  The script requires the character to utter  the fuck word many times, which is done.  One assumes that it is someone else’s voice over the boy’s dialogue.  The boy is supposed to be a really smart kid, able to solve complicated chess puzzles and have a fantastic photographic memory.  The film never explains where the genius comes from, except that the kid is autistic, which does not mean this kind of intelligence.  One character in the film even asks the question:”Where did he get all this from.”  Of all the performances, Tremblay does the best stealing the scene from all the other adult actors.

The script contains lots of dialogue that would whizz past most of the audience.  Since the team of soldiers are supposed to be all suffering from PTSD, this might explain the reason their words don’t make much sense, just as the jokes don’t – just fast quick talk.

For PREDATOR fans requiring lots of action, there are tons of pyrotechnic blow-ups, mashing of metal and quick edit fights which should have them satisfied.  Most of the action takes place in the city as opposed to the jungle in the original PREDATOR, though the film’s beginning scenes are set in the jungle.

THE PREDATOR was chosen to open the Toronto International Film Festival Midnight Madness Section and should have got enough cheers from that brand of audience.