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.
Christina "DZA" Marie's Favorite Horror Movies of the 21st Century
Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I don’t even get dressed up in a costume and bang on people’s doors anymore. No, I love this because I love horror. And candy. But mostly horror. And this time of year, you turn on the television at nine in the morning and at least five different channels have horror movies playing.
We’ve all heard of (and have hopefully seen) the classics: Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, The Shining, et cetera. And these are great. Nobody is denying the awesomeness that is the classic horror movies of the 1980s. But they tend to eclipse the modern horror movies of the 21st Century.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. The 21st Century sucks in terms of new, creative movies. Everything is either a remake or a sequel, or it’s all fake blood and pretty blondes with no actual substance.
Well sir (or ma’am), this list is for you. Because I decided to expel sequels and remakes from this list--which is a shame, because 2017’s It was incredible. These five movies were all made within the last decade, and all of them are new, creative, and downright terrifying.
Get Out is one of those insidious movies that gets under the skin and stays there long after you leave the theater. This is in part because the big theme is about race, and how seemingly nice white people still play in active role in oppressing black people. However, there are some real terror elements here. There’s hypnosis, brainwashing, liars and schemers.
One of the freakiest moments is during a party, where Chris (the guest of honor and the main character) leaves the room. Everyone is chatting and otherwise acting normal, until he goes upstairs. Then everyone stops talking and looks up, listening to him and following his moments. I literally shivered just remembering and writing this down.
The Cabin in the Woods
You know those comedies like Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland that make fun of horror movies? Cabin in the Woods does the same thing, and still scares the shit out of you. It’s the same guy who wrote Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so there is strong comedic elements--especially with the “villains.” (I’m using quotations here because, in the end, you have to ask yourself if they are truly the bad guys.) But it’s still terrifying. The idea of every one of your movements being watched and manipulated by people who want you dead. The risen zombies who worship pain and therefore go out of their way to make every moment as agonizing as possible. The fact that any decision or possible outcome that happens is a shitty one because it’s just that big of a clusterfuck. This one will probably remain a favorite of mine for a long time.
A Quiet Place
Some people are skeptical when they find out a horror movie is rated PG-13. Not me. The Ring (another favorite of mine) is PG-13, relying on dread and suspense instead of blood and guts. A Quiet Place uses similar strategies, and it does it beautifully.
It’s a post-apocalyptic world where everyone has to make as little noise as possible to avoid being killed by these horrifyingly fast (alien?) monsters who operate on sound. So 95% of the dialogue in the movie is American Sign Language, which the characters probably already knew because the main protagonist (and the actress who plays her) is deaf. The movie deals with guilt, family, and how to survive a world overrun by terrifying monsters. A good time all around!
I literally couldn’t even watch this one. I kept ducking behind my hand and looking away from the screen as the characters entered dark rooms and got hunted by the ghost-lady. The main character’s mother spent her childhood in a mental health institution, where she met another, much more disturbed girl around her age who also had a rare skin disease that made her ultra-sensitive to light. An experiment gone wrong ended with that girl being dead, but not gone, as she continued to haunt and emotionally abuse her “friend” throughout her life.
There are some concerns about this movie being less-than-friendly to those with mental health problems, particularly depression, which is one of the conditions the mother suffers from. It’s not nearly as bad as, say, Halloween or The Roommate. But it’s enough to warrant a heads-up.
This is a movie that took a mildly ridiculous premise--a haunted mirror--and executed it to perfection. It also has a dual timeline: we see the main characters as children encountering the mirror for the first time as it drives their parents insane, while simultaneously watching those characters as adults try to destroy the mirror.
I love this movie because it’s smart. There are zero stupid horror movie mistakes, and the only (ultimately fatal) mistake made by the characters is that of pride, which is a legit character flaw. The kids did what any child could do in that crappy situation, and then proceeded to spend ten years researching the shit out of the mirror and coming up with a plan of how to destroy it. The acting is great, the writing is better, and the results are horrifying.
But wait, there’s more! If you want a list of all of my favorite horror movies, head over to my Favorite Movies page. I update it every time I hit the theaters.
Have a happy Halloween! :)
Monday Movie! Deadpool 2
While it has its flaws, Deadpool 2 is a good movie, and probably better than the first one. No, scratch that, it's definitely better than the first one, thanks to Domino and Cable.
Domino is a member of Deadpool's new team, the black woman with the pale birthmark whose power is supernatural good luck. She has some excellent fight scenes, is a total badass, and is actually helpful. She doesn't even need rescuing! Yet she still stinks of Strong Female Character syndrome, in that she's not a fully-fleshed character. We have no idea what her motivations are, how she got her powers, or what her goals in life are. Why did she sign up to join Deadpool's team? Why does she stick around when things turn sour? If it's just for money--we don't even know if Deadpool's paying her--then that needs to be said.
In fact, the writers missed a beautiful opportunity to give her a moment with Russell, a.k.a. Firefist, the fiery mutant Deadpool is trying to save from the time-traveling Winter Soldier knock-off Cable. She and Russell are from the same horrible orphanage that tortures young mutants because...I don't know. Jesus?
Anyway, Team Deadpool is trying to stop Russell from killing the headmaster of this orphanage, because if he does that Very Bad Things will happen, while also protecting him from Cable, who wants to put a bullet in his brain. It would then only seem natural that, once Deadpool finds out that Domino shares these origins with the boy he's trying to help, that he would at least ask her to help him talk Russell down.
No, of course not. That makes too much sense.
So the movie gets points for having Domino in the film. It loses points for underutilizing her.
Moving on to Cable. We all know Marvel has a bit of a villain problem, in that they're often extremely forgettable. Other than Thanos and Killmonger, no Marvel villain really sticks out.
Cable, on the other hand, is a lot more memorable than the likes of Vanko or Ronan. (I'll save you the trouble of googling those two: they're from Iron Man 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy, respectively.) Maybe it's because he's played by the same actor who nailed Thanos. Maybe it's because he's actually not really a bad guy, filled with nuance and layers. Either way, he's excellent.
My only issue with him is his stereotypical backstory. We've got a serious case of Women in the Refrigerator trope.
For a full analysis of what this trope is, how it originated, and why it's a problem, check out this YouTube video by Feminist Frequency. But for the quick and dirty definition, the Woman in the Fridge trope is when a female character is brutalized, raped, and/or murdered as a way to enhance the man's story arc. Usually it's the kick-off to a revenge story.
Perfect example: Cable.
Cable's wife and daughter are killed by an adult, supervillain Russell. It's the whole reason he goes back in time to kill Russell, thus setting our story into motion.
This trope is used not just once, but twice in this movie! For a franchise that loves to make fun of itself, even cracking a joke about lazy writing when Deadpool points out the limitations of Cable's time-travel abilities, this double-whammy fridge trope is left unchecked.
"But Christina!" you may wail, "If we don't kill off the women, how could we possibly motivate the men into being heroes and villains?"
Here's an idea: Cable points out that the future is a horrible, grim place, and we see a glimpse of this through the ruins of his home. What if instead of sacrificing his wife and daughter, the writers had Cable go back to try to save the future as a whole? You could then also replace the tragedy of the other woman's death with, say, a breakup, and voila! No more fridges.
As I said, despite its shortcomings, this was a good movie. It was funny, action-packed, and even managed a minor grapple of the issue of right-and-wrong. It's a worthy sequel, and a hopeful kick-off for another Deadpool or X-Force movie.
But if you're going to use already dried up tropes like SFCs and Women in the Fridge, at least make fun of yourself for that like you do for everything else.
Marvel's First Supervillain Movie
So. Infinity War. That happened.
Is anyone else still recovering from the shock?
It's not just that most characters we thought we going to die--like Steve Rogers and Tony Stark--ended up surviving. Or even that every character we thought would survive--Bucky Barnes, T'Challa, even freaking Peter Parker--ended up dying. It's the fact that the bad guy won.
Well, for now. There is still that unnamed Avengers film that comes out in 2019, after Ant-Man and Wasp and Captain Marvel. Because Spider-Man is getting another movie (also in 2019), and Black Panther is getting his sequel, it's safe to say that these two characters--and hopefully a few others--will somehow be resurrected.
Speaking of future movies, it will be interesting to see what Thanos's universe looks like in Ant-Man and Wasp and Captain Marvel. Half of the population up in smoke (including Nick Fury; no!), and the world's going to keep on chugging. At least until Tony Stark finally makes it back to Earth, (hopefully) has that final confrontation with Steve Rogers we were all waiting for in Infinity War, and rounds up the remaining Avengers to kick Thanos's ass properly.
But let's backtrack. Infinity War is a movie in the superhero genre. That gives the most screen time to the bad guy. That has the bad guy win. This is not a superhero movie. This is a supervillain movie. Thanos is the main character, even if he isn't the protagonist; you don't want him to win. But you can't help but empathize him. He's a crazy, genocidal maniac who thinks slaughtering half of the population is the only way to save the universe...and he kind of has the evidence to back it up. His planet was destroyed by overpopulation. He talks about Gamora's home planet, how after he was done killing millions of people no one went to bed hungry, and now "It's a paradise."
Too bad he never considered other alternatives to solving the problem, like terraforming other planets for the sole purpose of farming. Because his heart's (mostly) in the right place.
Monday Movie! A Wrinkle in Time
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!