Thoughts on Netflix's new horror movie Bird Box
I finally got around to watching Bird Box last week. Alone. At night. In my windy apartment.
Word of advice: don't do that.
While there was a bit of type-casting going on, the acting was great, the script was amazing, and the movie itself was pretty cool. For those of you who don't know: Bird Box is a Netflix movie based off of a book of the same name. It's a post-apocalyptic monster story where, if you look directly at the creatures taking over our planet, you commit violent suicide. (So, trigger warning.)
One of the biggest complaints of this movie is that we never see the monsters themselves. Which is a stupid complaint, because that's the whole point of the movie. The creatures take the form of your worst fear, biggest regret, greatest source of grief, and enhances those feelings so much that you immediately commit suicide. That's the true horror of it: a formless, shapeshifting beast that only wants you dead.
Well. Most people dead.
There were some issues I had with this movie. Perks of having a B.A. in social justice: I have issues with every movie. And you get to hear about them. :)
One of Bird Box's problems is its treatment of people with severe mental health problems. The way mental health is (inaccurately, terribly) portrayed in horror movies deserves its own blog post, like this one, and this one. So I'm going to try to make this brief.
While most people in Bird Box die once they see the creatures, there is a small percentage who do not. Instead, they praise the creatures' beauty and force other people to look at them. And who else are these people but the criminally insane.
I get it. The creatures may be deadly, but once you learn how to navigate with a blindfold and ignore the fact that the creatures can mimic the voices of your dead loved ones, you're pretty much good to go. The movie needs another, more corporeal threat to endanger and kill off some of the characters. But if you're going to use people with severe mental health issues as your villain, then make at least one of them your protagonist. Show us a person with severe depression who's highly triggered by the mass suicides going on around them and needs to find some reason to keep going. Or someone with schizophrenia who regularly hallucinates and might have some insight in how to navigate the creatures' tricks.
There were some of the other horror movie tropes. While there was a refreshing lack of stupid horror movie mistakes, there was the fact that the only two people of color--both black men--end up getting killed. Er, killing themselves. Both in suitably self-sacrificing, badass moments. But let's face it: unless the movie is being directed by Jordan Peele, the black guys almost never make it to the end.
My final issue with Bird Box involves a big-ass spoiler. So if you haven't seen it and want to, then I am going to direct you to my newsletter signup, and my Patreon page. If you would like to see more blog posts, as well as YouTube videos on my channel and published works, then please consider becoming a patron. You'll also get access to exclusive content such as sneak peaks, giveaways, and surveys.
Okay, self-promo over. Spoiler ahead.
At the end of the movie, Malorie and her kids manage to get to sanctuary in the middle of the woods, at a building that turns out to have been a school for the blind.
This, obviously, makes sense, and I first thought it was pretty clever. Of course people who are physically, completely blind will have a natural advantage over creatures that require you to see them. In our sight-centered society, we often forget about these folks. So the fact that they got to play saviors was kind of cool.
But then I thought, Hold on. Why are we only hearing about these people now? This movie takes place over five years. You're telling me that the remnants of the U.S. military didn't think to recruit these guys to seek out survivors? Or that the ninety-year-old war veteran who lost her sight a few years ago isn't wandering around her home city making sure her idiot sighted neighbors have the food the water they need to survive? Or that there's a little blind boy foraging for food for his friends and family?
While a part of me is glad that the movie at least added the blind community in a positive way, it annoys me that people with disabilities only appear to serve the able-bodied people's stories. The only reason the school for the blind appeared in Bird Box at all is because Malorie needed somewhere to end her story. And I get that the whole movie is, ultimately, her story, but the fact is this happens with any movie that isn't exclusively about disability, with only a handful of exceptions. And that's just not right.
So, yeah. Bird Box is a great way to kill a couple of hours and a good horror movie. But in the grand scheme of things, it's nothing special, and nothing new.
Blade of Memories, Book One of the Black Shadow series, by Tina Hunter
While it won't be landing on my Favorites page anytime soon, Tina Hunter's Blade of Memories was quite good, and a joy to read. There weren't a whole lot of surprises, and there were a few parts of the book--like the whole thing with Lynn's ex--that had little to no relevance to the actual plot and only existed to set up future books. That's understandable for the first installation of a series, but it tried my patience when all I wanted was to get on with the actual story.
The pacing is excellent. It starts with a smaller heist that Lynn barely pulls off, introducing us to magic when she has to use enchanted crystals to scale walls and heal her broken arm. Funny enough, while magic crystals that anyone can use is widely accepted, people with innate magical abilities are harshly discriminated against. Which makes a certain amount of sense, as those with innate abilities are much more powerful than someone with a fancy glowing rock.
There are a few different cultures in this world that are very distinct and believable, and the magic system Hunter sets up is followed to the letter. I was intrigued to see that the setting is not based on Medieval Europe like 95% of epic fantasy. The existence of pistols and the costuming suggests something closer to the Victorian Era, though there is no steampunk element. The world-building is definitely an aspect that I want to see fleshed out in future books.
Lynn's relationship with Dorjee--the young runaway she takes under her wing--is an absolute treasure. In fact, every relationship Lynn has with each character is unique, complicated, and very real. Lynn herself is a good protagonist to root for: she's smart, crafty, compassionate, and we're empathetic to her because of the deck stacked against her. The only time I rolled my eyes at her character was near the beginning, when she agrees to undergo this impossible, extremely dangerous heist to get...a necklace. Maybe I'm just too practical for sentimentality, but even if it had belonged to her deceased mother, going through all of that hell for a hunk of rock just seems really stupid. Later we find out that it has magical value, but at the time of the deal Lynn doesn't know that. If she had even the vaguest idea, then it would have made it a much stronger MacGuffin and seemed like a more realistic reason to go through with everything.
Once the necklace-triggered plot gets started, though, it's a fun ride. Lynn has to try to lead a team of people who want nothing to do with her, encounters several family members who are involved and each have a stake in this, and has to find a way to pull of the heist to get the necklace without actually giving her boss the stolen goods, because she knows he's going to do something absolutely horrible with them.
I would recommend this for light summer reading, something fun to distract yourself with when you're recovering from the crippling death of a beloved character from another story. I will be picking up book two when it comes out.
A look at one of modern media's favorite tropes: the Five-Man Band. This video is designed more for writers who are hoping to get a firmer grasp of how these groups typically work and how they can make these characters, but anyone can enjoy. :)
Diary of the Green Snake will likely be released in March rather than January. SSS has a lot on their plate.
Link to my Patreon page: http://www.patreon.com/dzamarie
Link to the first eleven pages of my graphic novel "Sovadron" on my Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/posts/sovadron-pages-1-22751276
Sic Semper Serpent's Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/sicsemperserpent [Note: I already have a short story series with them called "Twisted Tales." They're feminist fairy tale remixes. You can check those out on this link: https://www.patreon.com/sicsemperserpent/posts?tag=Twisted%20Tales]
Check out Overly Sarcastic Productions' take on the Five-Man Band (as well as all of their other videos because they are just that awesome): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmmNuic_4tQ&list=PLDb22nlVXGgcljcdyDk80bBDXGyeZjZ5e
Is your recent book part of a series? If so, can you tell us a bit about where the story is heading?
One of my two most recent books is Beyond the Sea, the third book in the Crystal Odyssey series. I’m currently writing the fourth book that wraps up the adventures of Narissa Day--called Nissa--her siblings, the wizard Madoc, and his siblings. Through the books, their knowledge of their world increases as their own abilities do.
The other recent book is So You Want To Be A Dragon, a middle grade novella.
I want to be a dragon!
Can you tell us about what you're currently working on?
Besides the fourth book in my quartet, I’m working on the sequel to A Bite of the Apple and two post-apocalyptic stories. Actually, one of the latter is already long enough to be two novels plus.
Do you write under a pen name? If so, can you tell us why?
Only for fanfiction. My name on fanfiction.com and archive of our own is hilandmum only because that’s how I registered. For NaNoWriMo, I use plotweaver.
I'll have to check that out! My AO3 account is getting out of control...
What do you like best about the books you read? What do you like least?
I love books that take me away from my life. I read all kinds: fantasy, science fiction, mystery and thriller, literary stuff and even some nonfiction. I hate when a book catches my attention, but then bogs down in the middle or even worse, never follows through on plotlines. Inconsistency is a major pet peeve.
Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?
I did some writing when I was in school, but became fascinated with science and got a degree in chemistry, then worked in the scientific information publishing business for forty-five years. It’s only since I retired that I’ve been writing fiction. A lot, as if I was making up for lost time.
You keep saying you're "retired," but three questions ago you listed a whole to-do list that involves at least two novels and a novella. I don't think that word means what you think it means.
Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else required for your creative process?
‘Early’ for me these days is 10:30 a.m. I usually write for an hour before lunch. Depending on our schedule for the day, I write two to three hours in the afternoon or evening. In the evening, I have the TV playing as I write. That can be dangerous sometimes, especially if the program that’s on is engaging.
I want your life so bad...
Do you have complete control over your characters or do they ever control you?
My characters rule, but I trust them to not betray the values I’ve written in them. By the time I’ve reached the third chapter of any book, the characters do what they will, based on the personalities I gave them. Only a few times have I had to rein them in.
A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are. What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?
Every review matters. That’s why I review every book I read. Amazon has stacked the decks; their rankings depend not only on how many books are bought or pages read, but also the number of reviews. Writers also need to know if they did a good job, if they engaged their readers. One way to tell them that is to leave a review.
What kind of impact do you want your book(s) to have on readers?
There’s an underlying feminist message in all my writing. Growing up, few women went into the sciences, especially the hard sciences, but I did. Now there are STEM programs to encourage girls to go into science, technology, engineering and math. We’re getting there, convincing people that girls can do what the boys can. My heroes fight for that.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
It’s the same advice many of the top-selling authors give. Read. Read. Read. Write. Write. Write. Repeat.
If you could have a dinner with one fictional person, who would it be? Why?
At one point I would have said Harriet Vane or maybe Amelia Peabody, but now I think it would have to be the Orogene Essun. I wouldn’t want to go to her version of Earth, though.
I admit I have no idea who any of those people are. I fail at geek.
What might we be surprised to know about you?
When asked this question in the past, I used to say that I saw the Beatles live twice at Shea Stadium. Now, half of them are gone and so is Shea, but I’m still standing. Getting back to the question, I guess they’d be surprised to know I used to crew for hot air balloons.
What is your Hogwarts House and why?
Gryffindor, of course, and not just because Harry, Hermione and Ron are in it, but because it’s the best. Isn’t it? I even have a shirt or two that says so.
Ugh. You Gryffindors and Slytherins, always obsessed about which house is "the best." Meanwhile I'm crocheting a fabulous Hufflepuff shawl to put all of you to shame. XP
What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?
A key to making the world a better place is to respect everyone, no matter who they are, what they believe, or how they live their lives. I’d want to pass that along to everyone around me, and have them pass it forward as well.
What creature is better: dragons, zombies, or aliens?
I have to say dragons because they appear in my middle-grade book, So You Want to be a Dragon, and in the sequel to A Bite of the Apple.
An excellent choice! Thank you for coming onto my blog!
The first Dragons, Zombies and Aliens blog was started in 2015. Somewhere between college coursework, paying rent with door-to-door sales, and keeping up with my sorority sisters, I wrote reviews, rants and commentaries on books, TV shows, and movies. Now, this blog has moved, improved, and the sky's the limit!