Bird Box might not have landed with audiences as well as was intended, but one of the film’s biggest strengths is its monster.
Bird Box isn’t going to be everyone’s favorite movie. It’s certainly not mine. But considering I’m still thinking about this film well after I initially watched it, I have to admit it did make an impact.
It’s not always easy to watch, but Bird Box is captivating. With a high death toll, you never quite feel comfortable saying who will live and who will die. Unfortunately, that concern kept me from connecting with most of the characters in this movie. And the ones I did connect with? Let’s just say the emotional resonance of their death still lingers.
But what has continually fascinated me is Bird Box’s monsters.
We don’t know much about them, but we do know that if someone looks at them, even if its indirectly, like through a computer monitor, they commit suicide.
It’s unclear what exactly drives a person to do this, but we know from a few deaths that these people experience fear and sadness so completely that the effect is immediate. Douglas’ wife saw her mother, who has been dead for years, though we aren’t sure what it was about that relationship that would cause Lydia to kill herself.
The only exception to this rule is the clinically insane, who are able to withstand what they see and actually become acolytes of the creatures instead, forcing the sane to remove their blindfolds in order to come into the light, so to speak. The villainizing of mental illness aside, this is one of the biggest clues we have as to how the monsters operate.
Gary, in particular, is especially interesting. Most of the other acolytes are zealous in their worship. They’re loud, energetic, and unafraid. They go about the world shouting their love for these monsters, never hiding like our heroes do. But Gary was different because he played the long game, first presenting himself as a victim, then acting like he was a part of their group, if only to wreak the most destruction possible. It begs the question if Gary was more or less sane than the other acolytes.
It’s also why survivors insist on checking Mallory’s eyes at the end of the movie. It’s the one tell-tale sign that someone is or isn’t an acolyte of these creatures.
We also saw Tom briefly resist the effects of the monsters in order to kill an acolyte before promptly killing himself, which means there is a way to resist the pull of darkness these creatures infest people with, if only momentarily.
But even when you’re blindfolded, the creature has the ability to manipulate you. These beings can move things around it — as we see with the leaves and Girl’s hair later on — but above all, they rely on being able to trick you into thinking the coast is clear. We see this especially at the end, when Mallory, Boy, and Girl are separated. The creatures can mimic the voices of both the living and the dead, very nearly forcing more than one of them into taking off their blindfolds.
One of the only ways to ensure you know whether or not you’re actually being manipulated is to keep some birds around. If the monster is close by, the birds will start chirping like crazy, and you’ll know it’s not safe to take off your blindfold.
The final piece of the puzzle is that the creatures are invisible. It was recently revealed that this wasn’t always going to be the case, but after Sandra Bullock couldn’t stop laughing at the monster whenever she saw it, they decided it was best to leave it unseen.
This was absolutely the right call.
I love monster movies of all kinds, and while it’s always fun to get that final reveal of the whole creature from top to bottom by the movie’s end, sometimes it works better if we don’t get all the answers.
Just look at Cloverfield. The reason why this franchise continues to be one of the most interesting monster movies on the market is because we don’t get all the answers right away. It forces us to watch the movies more closely, to come to our own conclusions, to discuss clues and theories with our friends.
The open-ended experience has longer lasting effects on us and makes it feel more realistic than if the film gave us all the answers, essentially telling us this is the end of our experience.
That’s why Bird Box has lingered with me and so many others well after we finished watching the movie. Between the swirling leaves and Gary’s drawings of the creatures, we got just enough of a hint as to what they look like without it giving the whole mystery away.
I know a lot of people have complained that Bird Box doesn’t give us enough answers, that it feels unfinished in a way that’s more frustrating than appealing, but if it had revealed the creature, if it had given us a happier ending, it would’ve felt like any other monster movie with a big reveal at the end.
At least this way, for better or for worse, Bird Box stands out against the rest.