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Bird Box And The Minimalism Of Fear

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So, I watched Bird Box last night. Netflix‘s latest offering with Sandra Bullock in the lead role. You can expect my full film review tomorrow, but for now, I want to touch a subject that I noticed this past year.

I trend if you will, and the one that clicked on me as I started watching horror movies more heavily. I must admit, I’ve never been a fan of that genre, mostly because the gore, the guts, and the killings didn’t appeal to me all that much. To be honest, this is a genre that is difficult to nail, and not a lot of filmmakers can’t really pull it off.

But I’ve noticed something really great this past year in this genre. I’ve noticed the prevalence of not only smart horror movies but quality horror movies that don’t even have a visible antagonist (well for the most part). I call them Jaws inspired horror movies, and… well let me explain what I mean by that.

Remember how it took 81 minutes for the shark in Jaws to make a full appearance? Well, it was a good thing as you may all know, and the skills of Steven Spielberg were needed to make things interesting and to keep the interest going without the main star in the picture. And he did just that. So, the smart and finely done movies (that i’m talking about) are just like that, and Bird Box is no exception.

We don’t get to see the monsters that are causing the sudden suicides, and that’s what makes the movie compelling and fun to watch. The bare minimalism of the movie puts your brain to work, and your imagination in nitro speed, and it makes you create the monsters in your head. It makes them scary without visually showing them to you, and it’s genius.

But, Bird Box is just the latest example of this trend. A Quiet Place had also a limited exposure of the monsters, Annihilation had an interesting and minimalist twist of showing us the threat to our existence, and Endless is another gem of a movie that had an innovative SF/horror storyline. If you haven’t seen Endless by now, I highly encourage you to watch it.

Upgrade was also fantastic oh and don’t even get me on Unsane. The psychological horror was brilliantly done thanks to the great direction, fantastic cinematography and amazing acting from Claire Foy. But what did all these movies have in common? The immediate threat is either never shown or it’s shown in a very limited amount on screen. I love that.

It’s a very cheap way of making great movies, but most of all it’s an innovative way of making great movies. You can have that same effect if you mess with your audience’s brain in a compelling and smart way, and you’ll get the same reaction if had chosen to put unnecessary scare jumps. I loved last year’s IT, but the jump scares were a bit too much even for my horror loving Martin.

So, the point of my post is… Less is always more. Minimalism done right will get you far and don’t be afraid to mess with your brains in a fun and creative way. And Bird Box nailed that minimalism beautifully. Well done!


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