// archives

Twilight Zone

This tag is associated with 4 posts

Do NOT Press This Button.

To start with the good news, Richard Kelly’s moody, convoluted, and unwieldy adaptation of The Box — previously a Richard Matheson short story (“Button, Button”) and a memorable episode of the ’80s Twilight Zone reboot — is definitely a better movie than his nightmare last outing, Southland Tales. So there’s that, I guess. But then again, pretty much every movie I’ve seen in the past ten years, with the probable exception of Ronald Maxwell’s Gods and Generals, is a better movie than Southland Tales.

And, once you get that subterranean standard out of the way, The Box is sadly more of the same. Pretentious, overwrought, interminable, unnecessary…The Box is just irritatingly bad at times, and it makes the original Donnie Darko look more and more like a random fluke (or, given the lesser state of the over-explained director’s cut, an actual case of timely intervention by the studio suits.) I like The Twilight Zone, I like science-fiction, I like NASA, and I like most of the other things Kelly throws into the blender here. But, after an hour in this inane, sophomoric Box, I’m sorry to report, I wanted to push a button myself — fast-forward.

If you’ve never read or seen the story before, Kelly’s version goes like this: It’s 1976, and a young Virginia couple (James Marsden and Cameron Diaz) — he’s a NASA physicist, she’s a schoolteacher — are barely making ends meet in the ‘burbs. Then, one winter night, a plain-wrapped box appears on their doorstep. Accompanying this mysterious receptacle eventually is a visit from one Arlington Steward (Frank Langella), a courtly gentleman with a horrible (CGI-enhanced) disfigurement. For reasons that are not immediately clear, Steward makes this couple a horrible proposition: Push the red button on the box, and they will receive one million dollars. Also, somebody they don’t know will die. Should they press the button? Well, it’s a lot of money, and people die every day. I dunno…would you?

That’s the basic gist of Matheson’s story (Marsden’s character does make a brief nod to the original, biting ending) and the Twilight Zone version (different ending, but still decent). But here, there’s more. Much, much more. Y’see, Mr. Steward may or may not be a visitor from another realm. And, when I say “another realm,” I could mean Mars, where NASA’s Viking probes just kicked up a lot of dust, or I could mean the Hereafter –After all, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” so the converse probably applies as well. And he can possess dozens or hundreds of people at a time, at the risk of giving them nosebleeds, and have them do things like babysit and hector people in libraries. Steward’s wife is also running around, and she, as Convert #1, presumably, can create watery teleportation doors when the need arises — like, when you want to play Let’s Make a Deal for no reason at all. Ah, yes, and did I mention there’s a follow-up corollary to the original deal? It actually has nothing to do with the “someone you don’t know” part of the equation, or, really, with anything that’s come before. But, hey, that’s apparently how we roll in the Kellyverse.

In essence, Richard Kelly here has taken an eerie and perfectly self-contained 30-minute story and overburdened it with ninety more minutes of half-baked riffs on The Abyss and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, grandiose allusions to Sartre’s No Exit and Clarke’s Profiles of the Future, and oodles of quasi-scientific Trek-speak like “the altruism coefficient” and vaguely threatening flimflam like “the Human Resources Exploitation Manual.” The end result is subtraction by addition — the longer Kelly ties himself and his characters up in nonsensical knots, the more and more ludicrous the whole enterprise becomes. (Apparently, the first cut of this film was over three hours long — baby Jesus wept.) In fact, Kelly throws so much at the wall here to see what sticks that he completely forgets about the money. Once the million is paid out, our couple locks it in their safe and never mention it again…um, ok.

Sure, there are a few moody images interspersed throughout The Box, as well as solid performances by Marsden and Langella and brief, enjoyable turns by wily veteran hands James Rebhorn, Holmes Osborne, and Celia Weston. (For her part, Cameron Diaz seems off.) But, otherwise, The Box is eminently missable — it would probably seem an even worse disaster to me, were it not for the lingering stench of Southland Tales. Here’s a proposition for you: Keep your ten bucks and go let someone else see it — preferably someone you don’t know.

Button, Button.

Decision time: The trailer for Richard Kelly’s The Box is now online, with Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, and Frank Langella. Hmm, I dunno. I liked the Matheson short story, and the Twilight Zone version from the ’80s was solid enough. But I’m not sure how you’d pad this out to feature-length and not make it ridiculous. And, besides, Kelly still owes me money for Southland Tales.

We’ll Always Have Orgrimmar.

I have no pride, I have no shame…and I’m not above pimping for Blizzard Entertainment every so often if the price is right. So, as my MMORPG of choice is trying to build out its network prior to the coming expansion, and are now offering various goodies to veteran and signee to do so, send me a note if anyone’s thinking of taking the World of Warcraft plunge. On the upside, it’s relatively cheap and addictive entertainment. On the downside, did I mention it was addictive? Don’t say I didn’t warn you if your life takes an Aqua Vita turn.

Wanna see something really scary?

In the spirit of impending Halloween, Max of Lots of Co. links to two lists of the top ten scariest movie moments of all time (and there’s a longer 100-moment countdown here.) My own list would almost assuredly be topped by the Grady sisters from The Shining…Those two little British hellions were representing for Evil long before The Ring/Ringu‘s Samara ever got near a VCR. I also would include the Room 217/237 scene and even the opening moments – when the camera ominously follows the Torrances’ car winding through the mountains from a Cthulu’s eye view (spoofed so well in Treehouse of Horror VI.) In fact, when it comes to The Shining for me, it’s a bit like those Coors Light commercials: “I’m scared! Of bars open at all hours! Old corpse in the shower! Jack’s insane glower! And, and…and TWINS!”

Regarding other films, though, I think the first, pre-franchise Nightmare on Elm Street has some really frightening scenes — including the shots of Freddy stretching through the bedroom wall and walking with the impossibly long arms. The final scene of Carrie scarred me for years, the final scene of The Vanishing (Dutch version) gives me pause, the last moments of The Incredible Shrinking Man makes me wonder about it all, and the final scene of Prince of Darkness engenders a very uneasy feeling around mirrors. (John Carpenter’s The Thing is also a great scary/gory remake.) I thought the brief flashes of Captain Howdy in The Exorcist were pretty chilling, and of course there’s a number of awful moments in Alien, particularly involving Kane, Dallas, and Ash. The sequence in Twilight Zone: The Movie when the all-powerful kid banishes someone into cartoon world (and takes away his sister’s mouth) was so bizarre and unsettling that for years I’d thought I’d dreamt it. And I was extremely scared by Night of the Demon at a very early age (and to this day don’t take pieces of paper from strangers.)

Omsbudsdog Emeritus

Social Media Intern

Recent Tweets


  • Closing out 42 as we did 2012 - with the Roots at the Fillmore.
  • A new addition to the 2017 tree: Battle Angel Berkeley. Almost four years gone but i didn't forget ya buddy. #ripsheltie

Follow Me!


Blade Runner 2049 (8/10)

Currently Reading

The Nix, Nathan Hill

Recently Read

The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
Annihilation, Jeff Vandermeer
Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink, Elvis Costello
Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders
Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William L. Shirer

Uphill All the Way

Syndicate this site:
RSS 1.0 | Atom (2.0)

Unless otherwise specified, the opinions expressed here are those of the author (me), and me alone.

All header images intended as homage. Please contact me if you want one taken down.

GitM is and has always been ad-free. Tips are appreciated if the feeling strikes.