Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would get a sequel to 2008’s The Happening, but here we are. And whether or not Josh Malerman, Susanne Bier, Netflix or M. Night Shyamalan confirm that Bird Box is officially The Happening 2, in my mind it’s canon. This is definitely a case of the sequel being a better movie than the original. But is that actually a good thing?
In The Happening 2: Bird Box, Sandra Bullock stars as Malorie Hayes, a woman trying to survive the apocalypse with her son and a young girl she has taken responsibility for after the girl lost her mother. The plant-based toxin from 2008’s The Happening has mutated, so it’s no longer something you breathe to become infected–now all you have to do is look at it. One glance is all it takes, and you’ll feel compelled to end your life as quickly as possible.
What is “it,” you ask? Well, “it” is the same “it” from the first movie–nothing. Much like the gently blowing breeze of The Happening that signaled “it” was present, we get passing shadows and excited birds here that signal “it” is in the area.
As in The Happening, we see a lot of people killing themselves in inventive ways, humans becoming paranoid and turning on one another, and running from things that are not there. We also get an ending that really doesn’t pay off the journey. But the journey itself, and the people who take it, are where Bird Box separates itself from its predecessor.
What makes this sequel(?) so much better than the original is the performance of its lead, Sandra Bullock. In The Happening, Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Dechannel were seemingly told to display only one emotion onscreen–mild confusion.
But it’s clear from the very first scene of Bird Box (where Malorie is preparing the children for a dangerous journey) that director Susanne Bier encouraged Sandra Bullock to tap into all of her emotions, which makes for a much more interesting main character. Malorie’s story is told from multiple points in time as well, which makes the pace feel more brisk than the straightforward plod of The Happening. There’s also a darn good supporting cast, with John Malkovich (Douglas) and Trevante Rhodes (Tom) being the standouts. The cast alone makes this movie feel so much more competent than The Happening.
In the end though, being more competent actually makes Bird Box less fun than The Happening. It’s a better movie, that’s less fun to watch. The Happening is my favorite bad movie of all time–it’s genuinely hysterical. Bird Box is a much better film comparatively, but commits the cardinal sin of being a scary movie that is neither really good, nor really bad. Which is why I had to make it a sequel to The Happening in my head in order to care about it one way or the other.
Is Bird Box worth a watch? I think so, but it may ultimately depend on how hungry you were for The Happening 2.