Courtesy of Tribune News Service

Column: Examining 'Bird Box,' and why audiences just had to take a look

In a divided world, there remains but one common link among all: the Netflix original movie, “Bird Box.”

The film was quick to gain traction, setting a record for the most first-week views of any Netflix original. More than 45 million people viewed "Bird Box" in those first seven days — almost one third of all subscribers. Reception, however, has been less than stellar, with an average score of 51 out of 100 from Metacritic and 5.8 out of 10 from Rotten Tomatoes. So why has “Bird Box” reached such a wide audience?

For one, Netflix did an excellent job at promotion. The streaming service began teasing the film long before its release date, the trailer popped up ominously under suggestions to pique viewers' interests weeks in advance. What’s more, Netflix played to its mass web appeal. Netflix, with an estimated 37 percent of internet users subscribed to it, partnered with four Twitch streamers by challenging them to play their favorite games blindfolded.

The world soon followed suit, prompting the “Bird Box” challenge, a phenomenon in which individuals attempt to perform everyday tasks while blindfolded. Netflix observed this fledgling trend and issued a tweet advising against it.

Naturally, interest in the "Bird Box" challenge skyrocketed after Netflix acknowledged it. Challenge videos went from isolated to innumerable, with famous YouTubers even taking part. Netflix's tweet would prove to be the catalyst necessary in launching the challenge — and the film — into mass meme territory.

It should also be noted that Netflix is not known for offering a particularly strong horror catalog. After exhausting classics like "Shaun of the Dead," "The Conjuring" and "Hush," one might stumble upon the occasional gem here or there, but horror films are less often hits than misses. 

Thus, longtime subscribers itching for a thrill could turn to "Bird Box." The plot was not overly convoluted, the pacing was well balanced and the cast consisted of seasoned actors portraying believable characters. Granted, some scenes were a bit predictable, and the film had its fair share of deus ex machina moments, but it was a welcome addition to Netflix for those wanting a new thrill rooted in shock-value and gore.

So, did the quality of “Bird Box” warrant the cultural-phenomenon status it has obtained? Maybe not, but it was nonetheless an engaging and worthwhile watch.

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