If you’ve seen From Dusk Till Dawn you know that the first half of the film is as Tarantino as they come, but half way through Robert Rodriguez flicked a switch and turned the movie into a schlocky comedy/horror. Both halves of the film work equally well, it’s just a shock when things are going one way and change so suddenly and violently that they turn the entire film on its ear.
Which reminds me I need to watch From Dusk Till Dawn again. Coming soon…
Well The Box is a little similar, it also undergoes a huge change in tone and structure half way through, only in doing so it eschews even crazy-cinema logic, and complicates matters too much to be impactful.
Let’s just say half way through I thought it was a The Gift clone, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
It is the 70s. Norma (Cameron Diaz with what I think is an awful accent, even if it is authentic) is a mid 30s teacher married to Arthur (James Marsden), who is working on a top secret space project and is awaiting acceptance from NASA for the astronaut program. They live in a cosy home with their son Walter, although we are led to believe that cashflows are a little tight…
So one morning out of the blue the doorbell rings at an ungodly hour (for me any time before 10am, but I think it was about 5.30 am here). On the front step is a cardboard box and the dropper-offer is only seen as they drive away.
With all the unexpected ruckus everyone in the house is now awake and wondering what could be important enough that someone might interrupt their sleep. They open the box to find another Box inside, (this one needs a capital) and a note accompanying it saying more or less “we’ll be in touch”.
(A digression at this point, the Box is quite nondescript and has under a locked perspex (or glass?) lid a big shiny red button, there must surely be a risk that someone might lever the lid off and just press the damn thing! I know I’d probably get frustrated and have a go at opening it.)
The next day the note writer Mr Steward (Frank Langella) shows up, to say he is scarred would be a massive understatement, to say about 20% of the left half off his face is missing altogether might be closer to the truth.
At this point the DVD cover blurb happens, Mr Steward explains to Norma that they have the Box for 24 hours, in that time if they choose to press the red button they will receive 1M in cold hard cizzash!, but if they do press it someone that they do not know will die. He also leaves them $100 cash just for considering the offer, in either case he promises to return the next day to pick up the Box.
The only proviso is that Norma cannot tell anyone besides Arthur of the deal or the implications.
Then Mr Steward unlocks the lid and leaves.
No that very day Arthur gets some bad news at work, so once he arrives home Norma considers it her duty to put his needs first and commiserate (gotta love the 70s!) before explaining the slightly odd day that she has just experienced.
After a discussion the couple head out for a rare night alone and attend a play, then more discussions and ruminations of the implications (apologies to Dr Seuss)…
- 1M but killing someone, even if they don’t know them.
- Is it just a stupid hoax?
- What happens if they don’t push it?
- What could be the harm really?
After much soul searching and still more discussion they choose to…
And this is where the movie flips its lid.
The next day Mr Steward arrives for the “standard” debrief, explaining that the offer and the Box have been used before and will be used again… often.
The next night Norma and Arthur attend the most lavish and complicated wedding rehearsal that I think could ever happen. The fallout from their decision (whatever that was) still rattling around in their respective heads as they consider what they have done and if it might have more implications.
The night does not go to plan though, in fact absolutely nothing does from here. To explain the remainder of the film would be a disservice and would only confuse the hell out of me to be honest.
People that Norma and Arthur come across, friends and strangers, speak cryptically and act in extremely odd ways. Both of them are faced with new situations, each with major life altering decisions depending on what course of action they take, and Mr Steward pops up more than a few times just to make sure that things remain unbelievably complicated.
For about an hour I was happy enough to go along for the ride, even though the movie hadn’t moved along to that point you could feel it building and gaining momentum, it’s just that once the director decided to pick up the pace the film lost whatever focus it had, and the new information and sheer scope of the new circumstances basically overwhelmed any credibility that had been built to that point.
Having said that, regardless of how wacky and out there the film ended up (and it was wayyyy out there) it was at least interesting. I just wish they snipped off a few of the subplots and wound reeled in the logic just a tad, as things ultimately got out of hand and the whole thing degenerated into a bastardised Twilight Zone episode.
Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. I sorta think this is more a 6, but I must admit I felt like I needed to stick with it and see where the movie went, even though it was ultimately a little disappointing.