I wrote about Bird Box back in the spring, recommending the movie over the book. Now, a sequel to the movie has been announced, so now is the perfect time to watch and/or read if you’ve been putting it off. It’s also the perfect time for me to immortalize the argument I’ve made to most of my family by now: why Bird Box (the movie) is better than the very, very similar movie A Quiet Place.
Bird Box – Overview
Goodreads Synopsis:Something is out there, something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse of it, and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.
Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remains, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now that the boy and girl are four, it’s time to go, but the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat—blindfolded—with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. Something is following them all the while, but is it man, animal, or monster?
This movie had me on the edge of my seat the whole time. Sandra Bullock is a phenomenal actor, and that combined with the fantastic story and well-developed side characters made this an incredible watch. The imagery is horrifying, almost too gory for my taste to be honest, but very well done in that it’s visceral and raw. There are so many different ways the viewer is scared by the movie. My husband made me watch this by myself and it was terrifying in the best way possible, with a really satisfactory and clever ending.
A Quiet Place – Overview
If they hear you, they hunt you. A family must live in silence to avoid mysterious creatures that hunt by sound. Knowing that even the slightest whisper or footstep can bring death, Evelyn and Lee are determined to find a way to protect their children while desperately searching for a way to fight back.
Again, this movie had me on the edge of my seat. I chose to watch this originally because I knew John Krasinski from The Office and Emily Blunt from American Horror Story, and they’re a husband and wife acting together in the same film, plus Krasinski directed – what’s not to love?? This was also fantastically well done. Because of the premise, there’s not a ton of background music so that the viewer can hear every sound the family makes, which is utterly scary. Watching this movie makes you want to hold your breath. Also, one of the children in the movie is deaf, played by a deaf actress (Millicent Simmonds), so it was nice representation of the disabled community and an interesting thing to explore within the story.
Why Bird Box is a Better Movie
Don’t get me wrong – I really, really enjoyed both of these movies and highly recommend them to anyone who likes a good thriller. That said, there are three things that put Bird Box just ahead of A Quiet Place for me.
- The first and most important thing is the creatures in both movies. To me, anticipation of a horrible unknown is scarier than anything else. I can get immersed in a movie where the monster is implied, but once I see it, it loses some of its magic. Given that, here’s the thing: in A Quiet Place, the viewer eventually sees the creatures. There is a lot of buildup at the beginning where you only glimpse them, but there are several scenes as the action ramps up where the creatures are full-on characters, moving and snatching. Contrast that with Bird Box, where the creatures are implied and implied and implied, but never revealed. This makes the ending of Bird Box even better, in my opinion, because while it’s a good ending there’s a sense of tension that never gets resolved. What makes this contrast even more disappointing is the fact that the makers of A Quiet Place originally planned on not showing their creatures either. The reason they ended up in the movie is because they started designing a creature as part of their planning process, and liked it so much they added it to the movie. I feel like they sacrificed a bit of viewer experience in order to add some fun to the movie-making process.
- The second thing that puts Bird Box over the edge to number one is what the creatures do to you. In A Quiet Place, anyone who makes a sound instantly gets snatched up by this super-fast creature with super-sensitive hearing. This is horrifying, of course – I wouldn’t want to be taken by a creature presumably to a gruesome death. What could be worse than that? Turns out, the creatures in Bird Box can. They don’t kill you if you see them, but instead drive you to kill yourself. This is infinitely more petrifying to me, to be driven to harm myself against my own will just by placing my eyes on something for a split second. (Small spoiler upcoming next sentence.) In Bird Box, people who surround themselves in a safe environment, with no possible weapons, who tie themselves to a chair in an effort to save themselves, who lock the windows and doors, still, after glimpsing a creature, manage to kill themselves by beating their own heads in. That will always be more awful to me than being snatched because I dropped something.
- Finally, because Bird Box has more characters in it (a main group of friends, plus strangers along the way), it’s more impactful. More people die in Bird Box, but not without time to get attached to them, so it’s emotionally wrenching as well as grisly. Also because there are more people in the story, the writer and director got to play with different sides of humanity (spoiler alert): adding in some characters who can see the creatures without dying, making you wonder what in the world is wrong with them, and adding an extra level of danger to Malorie’s journey down the river. A Quiet Place features some side characters too, but mostly sticks to the main family, so there isn’t much drama aside from the main survival plot. I will say, though, that the ending is emotionally gut-wrenching as well.
(A slightly random aside: I think a lot of the reason Bird Box was better was because it was adapted from a book, rather than being written for the screen. Books by definition have more room for plot complications and nuance, and when pared down well, it really makes a more complex story onscreen. Going straight to screen means directors must keep the main plot relatively simple when a story could still potentially benefit from added background.)
The fact that the things on my list, especially the first two, are what make Bird Box so good says something about who I am. All the fears I listed are ones that involve the loss of control, and the lack of information – two things I really need in order to feel comfortable. And that’s what’s so great about thrillers and the horror genre, I’m realizing – the fact that people can be scared by so many different things, and that fear is a really good way to learn about yourself.
If you’ve seen one or both of these movies, what did you think?