I Did the 'Bird Box' Challenge While Watching 'Bird Box'

I sat for two hours on my bed, a bandanna over my eyes, while the film played on my television. I mostly snoozed or wondered how I would act during the apocalypse.

|
Jan 4 2019, 7:26pm

Left image: selfie via author. Right image: via Netflix

I spent my final days of December the best way I knew how: playing Red Dead Redemption 2 until it was late enough to sleep, or my lower back hurt from lying around too much. On Christmas morning, I turned on my mother's cable and promptly viewed five Fast and Furious movies in order. I gained a few pounds, mainly in chicken parm. Because I had been so busy, I knew next to nothing about Netflix's new apocalyptic thriller Bird Box. Then, I had to return to my job this week, and, consequently, the internet.

I went on Twitter. I became aware, almost instantly, that the movie featured Sandra Bullock blindfolded in a canoe, that it had received 45,037,125 views in seven days (the best ever for the streaming service), and that, over the holidays, it had rapidly become a meme—such a viral sensation, actually, that Netflix had to tell people not to tie bandannas across their faces and tape their (usually failed) attempts to complete simple tasks, like walking through an open door. Learning this, I also assumed, during the course of the film, birds would make an appearance on the screen, and seeing was bad. Clearly, I needed another vacation. But first I had to watch these videos.

I set off. Immediately, I stumbled upon the clip of two girls who blindfolded themselves for 24 hours, and one of a father slamming his small child into a wall. They were pretty funny. I had guiltily laughed enough for an afternoon.

But I was in a contemplative mood, and it got me thinking. Had anyone, I wondered, tried to view Bird Box while blindfolded? If they had, it hasn't been documented. So for the sake of internet content, and pushing something even further than it needs to go, I had to be the first to accomplish this feat. Plus, my night was totally open. I succumbed to something I never thought I would: an accidental online marketing ploy for what would certainly be a totally average blockbuster.

For two hours, then, I would sprawl across my bed, momentarily blindfold myself, put on this piece of cinema, and critique it. I really wasn't that excited.

But I'm a man of my word. I briefly got ready. I had been gifted some of those CBD gummies for Christmas, and after reading the label on the back, which informed me they were not FDA-approved and that I should only take a couple every few hours, I plopped seven in my mouth and prepared for what I assumed would be a night of stomach aches and a lot of screaming emanating from my TV. I was pretty spot on.

There's really a single logistical question you face after temporarily blindfolding yourself, and that's whether or not you should keep your eyes open. I mostly had mine closed, and every once in a while, I would fall asleep, woken either by heavy gunfire or the incoherent shouts of Sandra Bullock.

Before that, though, I figured I should jot down notes. I did this for a couple of minutes, but quickly became bored and concluded they would be relatively illegible. Here they are, nonetheless, in full. (I cleaned up some spacing afterward, but the spelling and everything else remains untouched.)

1546565039618-Screen-Shot-2019-01-03-at-75659-PM

So first off, looking at my detailed notes, some minor remarks on what I think to be the poorly constructed plot. There might be spoilers ahead, but I couldn't tell you if they're that accurate. Anyway, Sandra Bullock often sounds super serious and concerned. Severe trouble is afoot. In what I imagine to be the present day, she sternly talks to a kid she refers to as "Boy" and another she refers to as "Girl." It's the sort of vague language reserved for armageddon. The problem they face is, remarkably, referred to as the "Problem." Whatever it is, if they see it, they will kill themselves. Except for the psychos who look and don't do this. Why, I'm not sure. This does, however, appear to form part of the capital "P" problem.

In the beginning, Boy, Girl, and Sandra Bullock seem to be embarking on a river, because Sandra Bullock says this quite a lot. It took me a few minutes, but because I've seen a dystopian flick, I realize it flashes back to years earlier, before the kids are born (Sandra Bullock is one of their mothers) and before everybody else is freaking out about violently committing suicide. It continues to jump from the present to the past, until, I guess, the past catches up to the present. Phones don't work. There's a news report about the first stirrings of people on the other side of the planet (Russia) purposefully crashing cars. You know, lazy shit like that. Tropes. Once I finished, I googled if M. Night Shyamalan was the director. He's not.

The dialogue isn't much better. It's incredibly on the nose, an admittedly helpful element of filmmaking when you, the viewer, are solely using your ears and occasionally passing out. When these men and women aren't over-explaining what just happened, or what's happening in real time, they spend most of their time guessing what will happen soon. It's pretty remarkable. I distinctly recall three lines: "Under no circumstance are you allowed to take off your blindfold. If I find that you have, I will hurt you," Sandra Bullock says, presumably threatening the two children; "We're so fucking fucked," some guy states, twice; and, "We're never getting out of here. The world's going crazy," another person laments.

As far as the characters and their development go: The clichéd gang's all there. They're in a house. In addition to the pregnant Sandra Bullock, you have a lady who sounds old, a war veteran who's very moralistic and rational, a pregnant woman who cries a bunch, the guy who keeps saying "fuck," and John Malkovich. I mentioned this in my notes, too. What I didn't mention is that John Malkovich appears to be playing John Malkovich, even though everybody calls him "Douglas." I'm almost positive it's "Douglas," but I'm definitely positive it's John Malkovich. There might be more people, but I don't know.

Oh, there is one dude finishing up a novel about the apocalypse, he tells the others, which is less meta and more stupid. (Now is as good a moment as any, I guess, for self-promotion.) At one point, some of them, or all of them, cram into a car to head to the grocery store. A guy named Charlie freaks out the whole drive, screaming that he doesn't want to die, that sort of thing. Some bad stuff occurs, though, so they flee the supermarket. They run into an employee nicknamed "Fish Fingers."

Eventually, back at the house, and far too long into the film to be opening a door to strangers, a man shows up, and John Malkovich really doesn't want to let him inside—which is the best idea anyone's had. John Malkovich ends up getting knocked out. Naturally, everybody proceeds to die. Except for Sandra Bullock, and Boy and Girl. They lived. Time elapses. Cut to, I presume: the nameless river. It's treacherous. There are rapids. Some dude named Rick, over a walkie-talkie, has promised them a safe haven. It is now that I realize I have no clue where the fuck they are, and that Sandra Bullock has a walkie-talkie.

I don't have much more to say. Yes, it didn't sound like very good art. It sounded paradoxically didactic and pointless. Though, with that blindfold on, it did make me curious—what would I do, in a similar situation? Would I fight to survive? Would I save kids? How quickly would I subdue John Malkovich? But who am I kidding? I would probably just sit there. I would probably just wait. I would probably just spend my final days the best way I know how—by opening up Red Dead Redemption 2, mounting my horse, and riding into the sunset, as it disappears behind the Smoky Mountains.

Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.

Follow Alex Norcia on Twitter.