As a book nerd and sometimes book snob, I frequently like to trot out the phrase, “The book does it better.” Of course it does. A book would have more space to properly set up the premise, as well as flesh out the characters. The only book I found to be less engaging than its adaptation is Big Little Lies, but that’s a TV series so we can’t really elaborate on that here at MovieBabble.
After the hype and meme parade that was Bird Box, I wanted to read the book, to see how it compares and to see if it could address some of the questions I had after watching the movie. Needless to say, there will be spoilers ahead.
In Bird Box the movie, one minute the news is reporting about these weird suicides in Russia, the next moment it has hit the States, with the chaos escalating very quickly. In the book, it is slower. People start to realize the attacks have something to do with sight due to news reports and social media. They start blocking out their windows and staying indoors.
The book makes it quite clear that this is an invasion, with these creatures possessing a tangible form. The movie, however, is quite vague on what these creatures are. They feel more like a supernatural/psychological presence that can infect you the moment you open your eyes.
The Character of Tom
I know it’s hard to picture anyone else but Trevante Rhodes in the character of Tom, but in the book he is a blondish guy, with a reddish beard. Much like in the movie, Tom was the leader of the group. He had an energy about him that drew Malorie to him, though their relationship remained strictly platonic. He also had a daughter, who lost her life to a creature attack. However, Tom does speculate if she might have taken her own life because she couldn’t live in a world that was half-dream and half-grotesque reality. The mystery of what actually caused her to take her own life makes it all the more macabre.
Malorie doesn’t just stumble into the house by accident. George, the owner of the house, put an ad in the paper with an invitation for anyone to come and join him at his house. The book characters are more prepared than the ones in the movie, having worked out an inventory for their supplies as well as developed a three-person method to getting water from the well. They also explain how the electricity is still running though they are not sure how long it might last.
I saw quite a few comments on how the movements between the past and the present adds a bit of dynamism to the story. The book follows the same narrative path, though somehow the moments on the river feel worse in comparison to the one in the movie.
Firstly, since we have a third-person narrator who is limited to Malorie’s point of view, we never actually see the events that unfold on the river. She describes to us what she hears and feels, and through all this she has a tremendous urge to look but knows that she can’t. Hence, we feel her blind fear more acutely. Also, there are wolves. It’s as if the world isn’t dangerous enough with these creatures swanning about, Malorie still has to contend with other forces who want her dead. Give the poor woman a break.
Netflix probably had to tame the deaths so there wouldn’t be an age restriction on the movie. Maybe it was a good thing they did, because just imagining the deaths described in the book was horrifying enough. George, who was tied to a chair, squeezes his body through the ropes binding him, pulverizing his body. Olympia hangs herself with the umbilical cord that connected her to her child. Sarah Paulson’s character’s death was shocking, but it is nothing compared to her book death, where she stabbed herself in the chest with a pair of scissors. Are you gagging now? I was sure my heart was going to leap out of my chest from reading all this.
In the movie, the people who survive the looking suddenly start grouping up and forcing others to look. This didn’t really make sense to me, because if your mind is broken, how do you connect with others and then rationally hunt people? In the book, the only one we encounter is Gary, and believe me, he is more than enough.
He carries with him his manifesto, positing that his ability to survive after seeing these creatures is due to an awareness of the ceiling the mind can reach. Book Gary is far worse, since he tries to infect others with his ideology, and succeeds with Don. I know it’s hard to reconcile the hard-as-nails character John Malkovich (his name is Douglas in the movie) plays falling for something like this, but Gary knows which buttons to push. What Don has is his skepticism, and Gary feeds that, convincing him that it is mere hysteria that has caused people to take their own lives. So Don is the one who removes the drapes from the windows, allowing the creatures to gain entry to their home.
In conclusion, the book is a certifiable horror fest, and the movie never comes close to replicating that. Please don’t make the mistake that I did and read this at night. Not only was I not able to sleep, I heard so many ‘thumps’ and ‘thuds’ I was convinced the creatures had somehow become real. The next book on my ‘to-read’ list is The Haunting of Hill House. Let’s hope I survive that.
Thank you for reading! What are your thoughts on Bird Box? Any books or movies that have scared you beyond your wits? Comment down below!
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