The Box (Blu-ray)

Oh boy – gird your loins for this one, it's a stinker of epic proportions. Perhaps Richard Kelly really is a one hit wonder. Donnie Darko delivered, but after the bungled Southland Tales he now gives us a movie that's on a par with Exorcist II: The Heretic for incomprehensibility and stupidity. It's likely to sweep the board at next year's Razzie Awards.

Based on a short story by Richard Matheson, it could well be career killers for Diaz and Marsden too.  It's set in 1976 where wide collars are in abundance, and they play a couple living in wintry Virginia with their young son (Stone). He's a scientific bod and she's a teacher with a bad foot, having had four of her toes amputated. An odd box is delivered to their doorstep and the next day a stranger in a business suit (Langella) with a deformed face knocks on their door. He explains that if they press the button on the box the next day, a person completely unknown to them will die. Their reward for doing this is $1 million. What a dilemma. Her job is about to be cut and he's been turned down for an astronaut training programme so the money would surely be helpful. Should they press the button or shouldn't they? What would you do in this situation?

The premise is intriguing to be sure and for the first hour or so the tale draws you in but soon pretension and confusion take over. Langella has been affected and could be some outer-worldly soul with many followers, all of whom suffer from nosebleeds. Maybe he's trying to teach humans the error of their ways, then maybe not. A sub-Invasion of the Body Snatchers feeling takes hold, and soon the movie loses its smarts and disappears up its own fundament of illogicality. It gets ever sillier as it goes along and some of the dialogue is howlingly funny. Diaz and Marsden try hard but by the end you simply can't take them seriously, the plot being so ludicrous. A disaster of the highest order, The Box is so awful that one leaves the cinema shell-shocked at its ineptitude. It makes last year's remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still look like a model of skill and intelligence. Langella must be crying in his sleep. Earlier this year he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar and now he can be seen in this garbage. Tragic.

By the way, Empire magazine saw fit to give this nonsensical opus four stars. Dementia reigns.

EXTRAS ★★ An audio commentary with writer/director Kelly; the 10-minute behind-the-scenes featurette The Box: Grounded in Reality; a 4-minute featurette on Richard Matheson, who wrote the short story on which the film is based; music video "prequels" (three short surveillance montages); a 3-minute featurette on the visual effects.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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