Here’s one which doesn’t need any recommendation from me, but I wanted to comment on it anyway. I first read Josh Malerman’s BIRD BOX several years ago. My friends at THIS IS HORROR sent me a copy of the chapbook they’d published by Malerman, THE HOUSE AT THE BOTTOM OF A LAKE, and I was really taken by it. Having been aware of the buzz surrounding BIRD BOX, and the fact it was being adapted for film, I picked a copy up and was seriously impressed. Fast-forward a few years, and the Netflix movie adaptation of BIRD BOX is proving to be incredibly successful.
Unless you’ve been living in a house with the windows covered and have been blindfolded every time you’ve dared step outside your front door, you probably know what it’s about by now. If not, here’s a synopsis and the movie trailer:
Five years after an ominous unseen presence drives most of society to suicide, a mother and her two children make a desperate bid to reach safety.
BIRD BOX continues the great horror tradition of apocalyptic stories where the characters are deprived of one or more of their senses. Last year’s A QUIET PLACE deprived its characters of their voices, as was the case in my pal Tim Lebbon’s story THE SILENCE (a film adaptation of which is due to hit cinema screens later in 2019). You can understand why sensory depravation is such a fertile ground for horror – it leaves the characters immediately vulnerable and inevitably everyone watching can empathise: what would I do, how would I cope, how would I survive? John Wyndham’s classic DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS portrayed a world where almost the entire population is blind, but Malerman’s story ramps up the paranoia exponentially because his characters can see, they just can’t risk looking. And when you’re driving a car, looting a store, hurtling down rapids in a raft with your children blindfold, then the temptation to peer out would surely be unbearable.
There’s a top-notch cast and superb production values, with Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich delivering the goods. I was particularly impressed by the opening scenes and a wonderful sequence where the world deteriorates from relative normality to apocalyptic chaos in the space of a short car ride. Unfortunately, as is the way with many post-apocalyptic stories, the tension and horror of the initial event is difficult to sustain. Also, the split narrative, which works so well in the book, isn’t quite so effective on screen. That said, it’s still a thoroughly enjoyable watch which I’d recommend without hesitation.
I’m pleased the movie adaptation of BIRD BOX turned out so well. I won’t lie, I far preferred the novel, but I think the success of the film bodes well for the horror genre in general. As you may have heard, a staggering 45 million Netflix accounts watched the movie in its first week of release. That’s incredible. It gives me a lot of hope for the forthcoming HATER adaptation. On the subject of which… I know I’ve been promising updates for a long time, but as I’ve learnt over the last decade, the film industry is a wild and curious beast and its behaviour is impossible to predict. The movie is still happening, and a lot of progress has been made over the last 12 months. Please be patient a while longer. It will be worth it. We’re further along the road than you might realise. I’ve recently read and commented on the script, and it has the makings of something very special. More soon.
Oh, and if you’re in the UK and you’ve already watched BIRD BOX but are looking for something else to watch on this first Sunday afternoon of the new year, can I please recommend BROS: AFTER THE SCREAMING STOPS which is available now on BBC iPlayer. It’s an extraordinary documentary which could be described as a SPINAL TAP for 2019 (if it didn’t happen to be a true story). One of the executive producers is a certain Ed Barratt, producer of HATER…