Netflix looks to be targeting awards season with its new Sandra Bullock-starring horror Bird Box. The streaming giant is set to give the movie a limited theatre release – a pre-requisite for Oscar consideration and a step that Netflix usually only takes with films it thinks may have awards potential – along with its launch online on December 21.
It may seem an aberration to be talking of horror films in Oscars terms given the judges' traditional disdain for the genre, but following Get Out's four nominations last year, things do seem to be changing for the much-maligned genre. John Krasinski's A Quiet Place is already being discussed in hushed tones (pun intended) as a contender this year. Which is convenient, as Bird Box basically looks like exactly the same film as A Quiet Place, but with sight replacing sound as the evil monsters' chief weapon.
Similarities with A Quiet Place
If you haven't seen the former film, A Quiet Place deals with a post-apocalyptic world which has been ravaged by monsters who hunt with their super-sensitive hearing. Its central characters, a family headed by Emily Blunt and Krasinski, have to survive in total silence to avoid their nemesis, and parts of the film were "spoken" in American Sign Language.
In Bird Box, based on Josh Malerman's 2014 novel, you can make as much noise as you like, but no one knows what the monsters look like. Everyone who sees them immediately goes mad and kills themselves, so Bullock and family spend the film wearing blindfolds to keep safe from harm, but open to all the other forms of potential harm that come from having no sight, as if their post-apocalyptic, monster-infested world wasn't enough of a challenge already.
Horror films and the Oscars
It's an interesting enough premise, if a little badly timed given A Quiet Place's success so recently, but could it really bag Netflix an Oscar? Bullock certainly has form here. She won a Best Actress statue for her role in 2010's Blind Side and was nominated again for her role in 2013's Gravity.
She still has the Oscars' endemic horror-shyness to contend with, however. We could spend hours debating what constitutes a horror film, but by my own criteria only 13 have ever received nominations in the acting categories - Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931, lead actor), The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945, supporting actress), The Bad Seed (1956, lead actress and two supporting actresses), Psycho (1960, supporting actress), Wait Until Dark (1967, lead actress), Rosemary's Baby (1968, supporting actress), The Exorcist (1973, lead actress, supporting actor, and supporting actress), Carrie (1976, lead actress and supporting actress), Aliens (1986, lead actress), Misery (1990, lead actress), Silence of the Lambs (1991, lead actor and lead actress), The Sixth Sense (1999, supporting actor and supporting actress), and Get Out (2018, lead actor).
That's a low haul over 90 years for a genre that can trace its heritage back to at least 1896, when Georges Melies released Le Manoir de Diable, widely credited as the first horror film.
We haven't even seen Bullock's performance yet, so it's a bit early to be making a call one way or the other, but it would be great to see horror films in the mix again this year after Get Out's success last time around. A perfect scenario would see Bullock up against Stone for a sight v sound Best Actress runoff, though Glenn Close (The Wife) and debutante Lady Gaga (A Star is Born) may have something to say about that.
Eitherway, Bird Box looks like a fun watch, so we'll just have to look forward to its December 21 debut and find out then.