Release Date: November 6, 2009 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Horror, Drama
WTF?!? This is what the viewer is constantly asking himself/herself throughout the majority of the movie and that’s not exactly a bad thing. In fact, the weird factor is the film’s most entertaining aspect. Based on a Twilight Zone episode and a short story by Robert Matheson , The Box takes place in 1976 Virginia near NASA’s Langley research center. Actors James Marsden and Cameron Diaz play a financially troubled couple; Arthur Lewis sees his astronaut application denied and Norma Lewis is a teacher who limps not because of her off-putting accent but due to a few missing toes. Enter Arlington Steward (Frank Langella) who offers the couple a million dollars if they press a big red button atop a box, a cheap looking wooden contraption with a snow globe on top. The only catch? Someone they don’t know will die instantly. However the contrived premise isn’t the primary culprit in this ultimately unsatisfying movie, it’s the fact that much of the fun is deteriorated by film’s end. The first half is creepily delightful with a mystery involving NASA, the NSA, Mars, lightning, zombie-like “employees”, and lots and lots of bleeding noses. Although still creepy, any intrigue is lost in the second half as the film is reduced to an overly serious, pretentious mess complete with Sartre philosophy, religious undertones, and lessons on desire. It may be ambitious, but it’s difficult to take the movie seriously when the set piece’s psychedelic wallpaper is more captivating than any inkling of chemistry shared between the two lead actors. Director Richard Kelly’s (Donnie Darko) latest sci-fi suburban tale of sacrifice isn’t a complete waste of your time, but it’s not exactly memorable either.
Much of why the seriousness of the film does not play out is due to campy special effects. The makeup job on Frank Langella as he plays a man missing a portion of his face is decent enough, but the poor blue screen work becomes painfully apparent as the angles on his face change whilst the background does not. Even more embarrassing is the film’s water/pool portals, which rather than passing into nirvana, transports the viewer to computer graphics in the 1990s. If this movie set in the ’70s was actually made in the ’70s then the special effects might have been quite impressive. More than thirty years have passed however and it just looks lamely hilarious.
In addition to the film’s creepily weird tone, one of the more entertaining aspects is the movie’s incredibly off-putting original score. Musicians Win Butler and Regine Chassagne from the band, Arcade Fire, draw from legendary composer Bernard Hermann in the heyday of Alfred Hitchcock. The mixture of violins and other unsettling noises not only sets up the film’s ominous nature, but at times also becomes joyously melodramatic. This bizarre blend is pitch perfect to the film’s campy atmosphere. The receiving of an artificial foot as a gift is an odd scene to score, but Arcade Fire does it somehow and the result is wonderfully strange.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Richard Kelly
- Producer(s): Richard KellyJames Marsden (Arthur Lewis)
- Screenwriter(s): Cameron Diaz (Norma Lewis)Frank Langella (Arlington Steward)Gillian Jacobs (Dana Steward)
- Cast: Sam BauerSteven B. PosterAlex Hammond
- Editor(s): April Ferry
- Cinematographer: Quantum Creation FX
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s): Gradient Effects
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA