In Bird Box, out on Netflix on December 21, the apocalypse doesn’t come with a crash or a bang, but with a swarm of flying demon creatures. The creatures spread mass destruction without touching a single human being. Instead, the creatures have humans destroy themselves with surprising efficiency. By the time characters in Bird Box see the creatures, it’s too late. They’re already guaranteed to take their own lives.
The end of the world comes at us quickly in the movie. Malorie (Sandra Bullock), our pregnant painter protagonist, shuts off harried news coverage so she can talk to her sister, Jessica (Sarah Paulson), though maybe she should’ve paid more attention. The news states that all of Europe and Russia have been affected by an inexplicable plague of suicide. People are taking their lives in droves. By the time Jessica and Malorie have left the hospital for Malorie's OBGYN appointment, the phenomenon has arrived to the West Coast. Soon, cars are swerving off the road and people are throwing themselves out of buildings. Death is contagious.
Malorie narrowly escapes the madness when a woman hiding out in a (very beautiful) house rescues her, and dies in the process. In the ensuing days, she and her fellow survivors must figure out how the beasts work — and how to survive in a world ruled by them.
How do the creatures wreak such havoc?
The creatures’ modus operandi is fairly clear. They fly over civilisation, spreading the following pattern of destruction. Step one: People catch sight of the creature. Step two: Those who see the creature become immediately suicidal. Optional step three: They hallucinate and imagine they're walking toward a lost loved one.
Take what happens to Jessica as a prime example. As she’s driving, she catches sight of the creature, her face goes slack, and her eyes become red. Later, Malorie remarks about how sad she seemed — and her sister was never sad like that. Jessica first tries to crash the car. When that doesn’t work, she leaves the vehicle and resignedly allows herself to be hit by a truck. Not long after, the same cycle repeats with Malorie's rescuer. She sees the creature and then speaks about going home to her mother. Then, she steps into a burning car.
Also, it seems the creatures are near ubiquitous. It's not like people can take a stroll and hope they don't run into the winged harbingers of death. As if possessing a human-sensor, they swoop in with a rustling of birds and leaves and their effect is immediate.
What are the creatures, anyway?
Charlie (Lil Rel Howery), one of the survivors holed up in the mansion, has the best guess. Before the apocalypse descended, Charlie happened to be writing a novel about the end of the world. During his research, he uncovered a traditions in global mythology about creatures that bring the apocalypse. That's (probably) what these are — though we haven't ruled out aliens.
What do the creatures look like?
We’re in the same camp as Malorie and the other survivors in that we never see the creatures, but we do witness their effect on others. However, Gary’s (Tom Hollander) drawings give us a clue. Gary is part of the slim percentage of the population who survives after seeing the creatures. In the aftermath, these people become creature-worshippers; they love their overlord.
Seemingly, Gary has become president of the creature’s Yearbook Club, devoted to creating portraits of the creatures. In a series of exceedingly creepy charcoal drawings, Gary captures many of the creatures’ likenesses. Some look like spheres balanced on praying mantis legs; others, more like flying skeletons. Some are vaguely anthropomorphic. Others look like flying shapes.
Gary's drawings indicate the composition of the monster squad. It’s not a uniform species, but rather a contingent of hell beasts, each possessing the same ability to crush human minds. Delightful.
Now for the ultimate irony. Originally, the movie was supposed to contain visuals of the creatures. However, the cast and crew found the creatures too funny to use. "It was just a long fat baby," screenwriter Eric Heisserer told Indiewire.
Why can some people, like Gary, see the creatures and survive?
Why do some people not like chocolate? These are questions we’ll never have the answer to. All we know is that some people immune to chocolate's delights and others are immune to the creatures’ powers. However, this group of the population is affected by the creatures – just in a different way. Instead of becoming suicidal, they become converts to the creatures’ mission. Their sole goal is to get others to open their eyes and see how "beautiful" they are.
But why are the creatures here?
Isn't that the question? The apocalypse in Bird Box seems biblical in its sudden descent and its relentless, punitive efficiency. Humanity in Bird Box may not be wiped out by climate change or a nuclear warfare, but there's still the sense that the monsters' arrival is something humans have bought on themselves. Also, the method of death is also personal, to a degree. Right before they take their own lives, people see family members and loved ones. This indicates some kind of connection to the afterlife, as if the demons were hell-sent.
The Biblical theme also ties in to the ending. Malorie manages to reach a kind of Garden of Eden in an old school for the blind. The world as it was has been wiped clean. A new order, where the blind lead the sighted, is beginning again in that little courtyard protected by the creatures' wrath.
How can people defeat the creatures?
They can't. The creatures seem to be invulnerable to humans (though to be fair, none of the characters even attempt to fight back). The creatures are likely completely immortal. Since humans can't defeat their new demon overlords, they can learn to coexist in the world with them by removing their sense of sight. As long as people don't see the creatures, the creatures can't harm them. So, Malorie and her family, formed in the post-apocalypse, always wear blindfolds.
So that's where the birds come in.
Yes. The birds' chirping indicate the presence of danger. Since people are blindfolded, the bird sounds come as their only warning to get inside. A blindfold and bird in a box are the best weapons against the apocalypse. Sidenote: Only humans seem to be affected by the creatures. Actually, given that reality, there really should be more stray dogs and cats roaming the streets — but we'll take that up with the screenwriters another day.