AFI Fest Film Review: Sandra Bullock in ‘Bird Box’

When it comes to the movie “Jaws,” there’s a myth so often repeated that hardly anyone stops to question it anymore: The story goes that because Spielberg couldn’t get his giant mechanical shark to work, he was forced to shoot around it, resulting in a more effective film. That’s true up to a point. Sharks are scary, and the mere suggestion of one — coupled with the sight of a giant fin slicing through water, menacing p.o.v. shots, and the most menacing score ever written — is certainly more frightening than the sight of a malfunctioning rubber dummy. But there are countless examples, from Freddy Krueger to the clown from “It,” of horror-movie nightmares that are terrifying precisely because we do see them.

And then there’s “Bird Box,” a not-inexpensive Netflix thriller which pushes things to the other extreme, conjuring some kind of deadly phenomenon the mere sight of which causes people to lose their minds — a movie that has been (misleadingly) compared to “A Quiet Place,” only that film had real monsters, genuine suspense, and a much more intuitive set of rules for survival. In “Bird Box,” director Susanne Bier never shows the monster, only people’s reaction to it, which does something spooky to the viewer’s eyes, then mesmerizes them into committing suicide. One woman stares at it, whatever it is, and then steps out in front of a fast-moving bus.  Another looks, and then saunters over to a burning car, taking a seat in the inferno.