Based on the 2014 novel by Josh Malerman, Bird Box premiered on Netflix in December 2018 and instantly became a pop culture phenomenon. Many took part in the ill-advised Bird Box Challenge, attempting everyday tasks while blindfolded. Netflix had to step in and ask for people to stay safe and stop going out blindfolded for no reason. Even the U.S. Surgeon General commented on the movie and wondered if he could be in Bird Box 2. (Yes, it’s happening).
So, when Inverse polled 1,200 readers to vote for Netflix’s best science fiction movie, it came as no surprise that Bird Box landed in the number one spot. But what no one could have predicted in 2018 was how relevant and prescient the movie would seem just two years later.
Directed by Susanne Bier with a screenplay by Eric Heisserer, the post-apocalyptic Bird Box splits its time between the past and the present. Malorie (Sandra Bullock) and two young kids — known only as Girl and Boy — attempt to cross a turbulent river to safety, all without removing their blindfolds.
Five years prior, a pregnant Malorie is returning from a routine check-up when all hell breaks loose. The apocalypse goes from zero to a hundred real quick and anyone caught looking directly at the seemingly invisible monsters ends up dead. The creatures effectively strip the world’s population of sight, forcing them into hiding. They must rely on their baser instincts and learn who to trust to get by. The only way to go outside safely is by wearing a blindfold.
Not everyone enjoyed Bird Box. It’s been compared unfavorably to A Quiet Place, a similar horror movie where alien creatures use sound to find and kill their victims. Bird Box was parodied endlessly and criticized for its shallow characters and overreliance on exposition. On Rotten Tomatoes, fans and critics agree, giving the movie an average score of 63 and 57 percent, respectively.
But at its core, Bird Box is a survival movie. Framed within the context of our current health crisis and the need for masks to fight the spread of Covid-19, Bird Box has never been more relevant and honestly hits a little too close to home.
In an interview with Inverse, author Josh Malerman even admitted to sometimes forgetting whether he was living through the coronavirus pandemic or the one he invented.
"I was getting ready to leave the house and I was like, Okay, I need my mask, and my gloves, and you can’t look outside," he recalled. "So even like I understand it. It fits in with today's world."
The characters who don’t take the proper precautions are the ones putting everyone else in danger. In one scene, Malorie and Douglas (John Malkovich) argue about welcoming a stranger named Gary into their home because they don’t know where he’s been or who he’s come into contact with. When Gary is ultimately exposed to the monster, he doesn’t die immediately like the others. Instead, he works as a vessel, attempting to expose others to the virulent creatures.
It sounds eerily familiar, doesn’t it? Like watching the current news cycle on a loop.
Bird Box is ultimately less horror story and more exploration of the human condition when faced with dire circumstances and an unknown threat. Malorie’s detachment and refusal to name Boy and Girl reveal what happens when survival becomes our top priority. It’s only when she gets to safety that they finally get actual names.
Malorie learned the hard way that paranoia is safer than hoping for the best in an unforeseen situation. If only our political leaders could have learned those same lessons back in March when the coronavirus was first surging.
Bird Box unexpectedly echoes our present, subtly pulling our face masks up to cover our eyes from a villain just as invisible and deadly as the one we're facing in the real world right now. Whether or not any of that was intentional hardly matters, and the fact that these themes also make Bird Box an engaging, if wildly uneven, film are just an added bonus.
Bird Box is currently available to stream on Netflix.