The Box (2009)
A film this reviled by audiences must be doing something right, right? Those were my first thoughts after seeing The Box's cinemascore rating (which compiles audience reaction as they exit a theater). I mean, a public so enamored with, well you know — the stuff they're enamored with — must universally hate this film because A.) it was likely unpredictable, B.) It was "boring," or perhaps C.) it made them uncomfortable. I arrogantly assumed it was the audience's insecurity, and not a lack of film craftsmanship that led to the low score. We're talking about a movie-going public that regularly makes the high-budget hackwork of Michael Bay the top grossing film of every summer. The day Transformers 2 came out, my Facebook newsfeed was overwhelmed with "OMG Transformers was awesomer" statuses.
The film's pedigree is intriguing at least: director Richard Kelly already has one cult classic under his belt, Donnie Darko, and one unwatchable, incoherent mess, Southland Tales. The Box was supposedly his attempt at Hollywood genre filmaking, the kind of picture adored by movie buffs for its adherence to genre thrills, and enjoyed by audiences for its straight-ahead suspense. It was even an adaptation of one of the Twilight Zone's most beloved writers, for Christ's sake.
As it turns out, I totally understand why audiences hated The Box. If Kelly set out to make a genre piece, he fails. The first half misfires on nearly all grounds: suspense, atmosphere, and most of all — pacing. The thing just lurches along. But then, right when you're ready to turn the fucker off, comes the philosophical/ethical premise: a middle class couple (Cameron Diaz and some dude) are presented a box with a red button. If they push the red button, they will immediately be given $1 million cash, but a person that they don't know will also be killed. After receiving the cash, the box will be delivered to another couple that they don't know, which implies exactly what you think it implies.
After they make their decision, weird stuff starts happening. Then even weirder stuff, and then Kelly loses his damn mind right when things actually start to get conspiratorial — the NSA, NASA, lightening, Mars launches, murder, cover ups, and then, wait for it, doors made out of water that transport people to different dimensions. Kelly couldn't even make a decent, tightly conceived thriller. The whole thing reeks of a nice short story that, once placed into the hands of a LSD burnout, turns into a 2,000 page manifesto about aliens, or something. D+