Bird Box, coming to Netflix this week, is the latest movie from director Susanne Bier. Sandra Bullock plays Malorie, a woman whose ordinary life, along with everyone else’s, comes unraveled when a mysterious force sweeps across the world that causes everyone to go slightly mad and kill themselves.
Malorie survives along with her young children and aligns herself with a group of others in the wilderness. Because the terror shows people illusions of their greatest fear, an eventual trip to find safety requires Malorie to blindfold herself and her children, with birds acting as literal canaries in a coal mine to alert them danger is nearby.
The blindfolded Bullock, holding the kids, is the central element of the poster, which communicates the story through the copy “Never lose sight of survival.” The photo conveys a dramatic tension that’s perfectly in line with what we see in the trailer.
Malorie is blindfolded in the middle of the jungle as the first trailer opens for reasons unknown. Flashback to her as a pregnant mother, which should be a happy time, but as she’s leaving the hospital people around her start acting very strangely, including in ways that injure or kill themselves and others. They’ve apparently been seeing visions of their worst fears. She joins a group of people who have holed up for survival. Her kids now older, she takes them out into the world to try and find help, blindfolding them so they don’t see the visions. But that also means they can’t see the dangers approaching.
It’s a tight thriller of a trailer, selling the movie as a more artistic version of some of the end-of-the-world stories that have come out recently. Bullock looks great and I get a very The Mist feeling from the group of survivors who can’t get along with each other but who need to cooperate to survive.
The second trailer, released just a couple weeks ago, starts out by mixing pleasant memories with terrifying footage of the world gone mad. The cause of the madness is said to be not a virus or chemical but “evil” that infects people with visions of their worst fears. It ends with Malorie on the same mission to take her children somewhere safe we saw in the first spot.
Online and Social
There was no official site created by Netflix for the movie, just an Instagram profile where it showed the same sort of intentional planning and publishing it did when promoting The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Pre-roll videos were run on YouTube that featured shorter, TV spot-like versions of the trailer but that’s about the only paid promotions I’ve come across.
Media and Publicity
A story in late August included director Susanne Bier among a handful of other female directors with Netflix original films coming out in the late months of 2018, allowing her to talk about her career as well as this movie specifically.
In mid-October the movie was added to the lineup of the AFI Film Festival. Later on Netflix announced it would be one of three films this season to receive pre-streaming theatrical release, something unusual for the company’s original features but a decision made to attempt to increase its chances for awards contention.
The November red carpet premiere at AFI Fest had to be canceled because of the wildfires raging through California. At about that time Bier was interviewed about the movie’s various tones and assembling the substantial supporting cast.
Bullock was interviewed in the weeks leading up to release, but most of the resulting stories focused on her fashion, her kids or what potential there may be for another Ocean’s film. She stopped by “The Late Show” to chat about various things as well.
There’s a vibe, of course, that’s more than a little reminiscent of The Happening, but thankfully Bullock is a much better actor than Mark Wahlberg was or could ever hope to be, so the story similarities are easily overlooked.
More than that, the marketing of this movie creates a more palpable sense of real tension and danger by not only making the stakes more personal – it’s about Malorie’s quest for safety with her family, not just outrunning the wind – and because it’s clear the danger is real, even if it remains unseen.
Picking Up the Spare
Bier spoke about her career to date and how making this film fits into that path, as well as how she’s been effected by sexism in Hollywood. She was later interviewed about the whole theatrical run issue as well as how the story portrays motherhood. Further comments focused on how the success of the film was and should be measured.
Rhodes was was also profiled on what it was like working with Bier and the story he was part of. He then partnered with Lil Rey in an official Netflix chat about the movie.
The company also released a couple fun featurettes, one where they were auditioning people for the role of Sandra Bullock and one where birds reviewed the movie.
The general public picked up on the “Bird Box Challenge,” meaning trying to navigate somewhere while blindfolded. It was all good fun, but Netflix wound up warning people to be careful so they wouldn’t get hurt. it could be liable, after all, even though it had no role in encouraging participation.
The production designers shared their concept for the creatures that remain all but completely unseen in the finished film.
Nielsen released numbers that back up Netflix’s claims of success for the movie, but it’s important to note that Netflix has disputed claims from the measurement company in the past.
Paulson kept being asked about the movie while promoting Glass.