Friday, November 6, 2009

The Box

When I see a big budget studio film that's bound to appeal only to a very niche audience, it causes me to wonder how it got made in the first place and to admire the kind of special talent it takes to convince a studio to back a project that's almost certain to fail.

Whoever pulled that trick off with The Box must be one skilled freak of nature because nothing about this film says "yeah, let's put $30 million into this!" It's an adaptation of a semi-obscure Richard Matheson short story that doesn't really have any action per se, it's not quite a horror film (it has its share of creepy moments but you couldn't call it outright horror), it's not what Hollywood thinks of sci-fi anymore (no giant robots), and oh yeah - it's a period piece set in the '70s.

So while The Box isn't likely to become a hit, my thanks go out to writer/director Richard Kelly for pushing all the right buttons with me. Sure, this probably could've used some tightening - The Box sags in the middle before snapping back for the climax - but I never felt impatient to get out of the world that Kelly had created. There's something innately comforting about the film's warm '70s vibe coupled with the weird conspiratorial atmosphere closing in around the lives of Arthur and Norma Lewis (James Marsden and Cameron Diaz). It's somehow eerie and homey at the same time and those are two things I like.

Some will undoubtedly find The Box to be a pretty package with nothing in it but it turned out to be just what I was looking for - a big scale Twilight Zone tale filled with moral quandaries, spaced-out sci-fi and '70s shout-outs. Click over to Shock Till You Drop for my full review.

5 comments:

Bob Ignizio said...

I felt about the same way. I felt the film had some flaws, but I really respected what Kelly was going for, and for the most part I think he pulled it off. I also really liked the orchestral soundtrack, which would have been right at home in an actual seventies film of this kind.

I'm pretty sure this is going to bomb big time, though. Several members of the advance screening audience I saw this with walked out griping about how it was the stupidest movie they'd ever seen and similar comments. As with Kelly's previous two movies, this one is destined for cult status.

Planet of Terror said...

Excellent review! I can't wait to see it.

Jeff Allard said...

Bob, I screened this by myself but I can already hear the kind of comments this is going to get from the general public. Of course, most of the viewers who will cry about how idiotic this is probably wouldn't hestitate to recommend Couples Retreat as a great night at the movies. But whatever - to each their own.

And PoT, if you see it I hope you like it!

knobgobbler said...

I'm curious to see this... I watched the old TV version (was it Tales From The Darkside? Outer Limits?).
Not at the top of my list though... hopefully I'll get to it while it's still in the theater.

Jeff Allard said...

It's from the '80s update of The Twilight Zone, Knob. I definitely liked The Box but it's a hard one to recommend. I have a feeling if you don't see it in the next two weeks, you'll have to wait till DVD. There's no way it's going to stay in theaters past Thanksgiving.