‘Box’ doesn’t have too much inside it

brett.hilbrandt

Good movies make you question your morals sometimes, but that’s why we love them. Regardless of whether or not you’re smiling as The Joker makes a pencil disappear or laughing at the end of “There Will Be Blood,” the situations make you think about what you would do in a certain circumstance. “The Box” may not have been nearly as good as those films, but I couldn’t help but wonder if I would press the button.

Based off Richard Matheson’s short story “Button, Button,” Richard Kelly’s “The Box” follows Norma (Diaz) and Arthur (Marsden) Lewis, a middle class family in West Virginia. Arthur works for NASA in hopes of traveling to space, and Norma is a teacher at a private school that their young son attends. After their child loses his scholarship and Arthur loses his dreams of going to space, they find themselves in a financial crisis. Late one night, an unmarked package is left at their doorstep. It contains a wood box with a red button locked in glass. A note in the package explains a man named Mr. Steward (Frank Langella) will arrive at 5 p.m. the next day. Steward informs the couple that they have 24 hours to press the button that will kill someone that they do not know and they will receive $1 million. The couple tries to figure out the situation, but as they get deeper into the conspiracy, they suspect they are being tested for an unknown reason.

Marsden and Diaz have a realistic chemistry in this movie and that makes up for missing character development. Marsden is above average as a good man that finds himself in a bad situation, and I never thought he was overacting. Diaz, on the other hand, was bad, with her terrible old-time southern accent. Langella steals the show as the deformed man, and he does a great job not playing a more than average villain by not being over the top.

The idea behind “The Box” is outstanding because the situation is terrifyingly simple. The first half of the film I was at the edge of my seat, as the two main characters raced to find out what was going to happen next. Unfortunately, the film changes pace about halfway through, and they tried to make this simple suspense film more than it truly was. Even with a mediocre second half, I give this film credit for being a cool throwback to suspense films from the 50s.

Director Richard Kelly may always live in the shadow of his cult classic “Donnie Darko,” but his talent behind the camera is noticeable. Even though this film has a vibe that was in many 50s films, Kelly approaches it as an homage rather than a modern take. The first half is shot like numerous Alfred Hitchcock films, from the frantic unknown suspense, to the screeching score during scenes of action. Even during the film’s weak second half, the cinematography stays true to the old-school feel that managed to keep my attention.

The score by three members of the band Arcade Fire is honestly the best part of this film. The suspense built by the constant frantic music inspired by older movies like “Chinatown” really can make a simple situation riveting. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about the film’s special effects. They looked like made for TV effects on a low budget horror film.

I really wanted to like this movie, but the films second half ruined it for me. The classic feel is great, and I hope that Kelly can use it in the future toward a better movie. I can’t recommend this movie for that many people, but if it sounds like your type of movie than give this film a rental.