Spoilers for the movie Bird Box…in case you didn’t guess…
I’ve never been a scary movie person. I don’t really know why not. I love a good Poe short story or dark fairytale, some of my drawings tend to creep people out, and I have lots of fun playing freaky characters, but I don’t know…I just never got into the genre. I was scared of haunted houses when I was younger, and I didn’t go out of my way to scare myself with fiction, maybe as a kid with lots of anxiety the world was scary enough, or maybe I was just kind of a wimp when it came to that stuff, who knows?
I like to think I’m a braver person now, but you still won’t catch me at Halloween Horror Nights or anything. It’s not terribly appealing. I’ve been an actor, I get what’s going on. And I think it’s a very cool thing, I love immersive theatre, but if I want to freak myself out for fun I’ll go skiing or climb a rock wall or something, both of which I like to do. Also, there’s a very strong possibility that I would reflexively whack an actor that got in my face and feel terrible about it and get kicked out…soooo…
I still don’t really watch horror movies. Some of them look like they are all the same gory plot that’s been done a million times and some of them are just…too much (American Horror Story, Hotel…). And honestly sometimes I don’t watch horror movies just because it doesn’t work with the way my brain is wired. I don’t know how other people experience things, but I can latch on to one fundamentally disturbing thing and think about it for months and it will become this whole endless thought spiral. Lots of horror movies are about humans doing terrible things to other humans and that’s just too much like real life.
I’m not trying to say it’s a bad genre or anything, I just haven’t really spent much time in it. The extent of my past experience with anything close to the horror genre is, not counting literature, some American Horror Story, The Handmaid’s Tale (okay I know it’s not technically a horror movie but it’s the scariest thing I’ve ever seen, and astonishingly well done), episode 4 of Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood (yeah, that specific episode, don’t even ask), and I guess Black Mirror, there are some freaky episodes of that? And does Stranger Things count? I don’t really think so. I wouldn’t really call it scary so much as creepy. Or maybe I just don’t really think things are scary unless the villain is human.
I say all this about scary movies to give you some background as to why I had absolutely no intention of watching Bird Box. Until a few days ago when I caved, that is. Hey, I was tired and I wanted to be able to understand the memes. Also honestly half of it was to find out what the whole thing with the birds in a box was. You’ve probably heard of the movie by now. It’s another new Netflix thing. It’s actually been out for a while now, in internet time (so just a few months), but at first it was all over social media. I think it’s classified as a horror movie, and if it’s not my whole article kind of falls through so let’s just run with that. It was creepy, sure, but I didn’t think it was “horror movie creepy”. Whatever that means…? I guess when I think horror movie I think zombies or serial killers or just generally a lot of blood and gore. And there was a fair amount of blood, but, the enemy in the movie wasn’t a murderer or the undead or a clown or whatever…there were monsters, but invisible ones who represented more than just creatures.
Two things, as a bit of a preface. Minor spoilers ahead. Also, I saw that this movie got some bad reviews. Honestly have whatever your opinion you want, I don’t care, I’m not even sure what my opinion on it is yet. But, I’m not here for divisive comments about plot holes, I’m just doing some reflection. Cool? Cool.
The basic plot is as follows. The movie switches between flashbacks and present day, following Sandra Bullock’s character Malorie and the two children she is caring for, who she calls only Boy and Girl. In the flashbacks we learn that the world is falling apart when monsters appear who cause the people who see them to kill themselves. There are a few people who are immune, they may see the creatures, but they are changed. They begin to see them as godlike and their mission is to get others to look at them, which in turn causes more deaths. In the present, it is a post-apocalyptic world, and Malorie must get down a treacherous river with the two children to a supposed safehouse. Without completely spoiling everything, I will simply say that there is a surprisingly hopeful ending, and the children are finally given actual names.
Whether you liked it or not, it’s kind of an odd premise for a story. Like I said before, I’m not even certain of my opinion on the movie yet, but I have been thinking about what I can take from it. I think the meaning behind the movie is pretty clear. The real monsters are in our own minds. There are plenty of terrors outside, and they will take a toll on us, but mental illness is scary and living with a brain that you can’t get along with is dark.
In stories, birds are often used as a symbol of hope. In the movie, for an unexplained reason, birds can sense when the creatures are near. Malorie and the kids keep three birds with them, in a box with air holes. In a sense, the birds are their guardians through the whole journey. When they reach the safe house, they finally release their birds and are themselves released from the harsh lives they’ve been living.
Whether it’s a properly good movie or not, perhaps it can serve as a reminder that though the world is looking dark right now, if we completely give up there will be no world left. Even as someone who isn’t always the paragon of optimism, I recognize that holding on to some kind of hope is worthy, is necessary. As Emily Dickinson wrote “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches on the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all…”.
Note: Okay, so how did those little birds survive the trip down the river? I mean, the rapids were rough. They were some badass birds, that all I’m saying.