Bird Box is a holiday movie because of the importance it places on family — even if the mom and her kids at the center are busy battling apocalyptic circumstances

By Maura Hohman and Mary Green
December 27, 2018 03:00 PM
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Bird Box is the perfect holiday movie for the importance it places on family — even if the mom and her kids at its center are busy battling apocalyptic circumstances.

At least, that’s what the Internet seems to think based on how many people can’t stop talking about the new Netflix flick. It hit the streaming service last Friday and stars Sandra Bullock, who wears a blindfold for most of the movie. Viewers have described the film as “terrifying” and repeatedly professed how “scared” and “obsessed” they are with the psychological thriller.

On the fence about getting in on the nerve-wracking action? Here’s everything you need to know about Bird Box.

What is Bird Box about?

Netflix’s official synopsis explains: “In the wake of an unknown global terror, a mother must find the strength to flee with her children down a treacherous river in search of safety. Due to unseen deadly forces, the perilous journey must be made blindly.”

Sandra Bullock in Bird Box
Netflix

In interviews, Bullock, 54, has further elaborated on the themes of the film — namely that it’s “a deep, emotional love story about what is family, what’s happening in the world, what’s making people harm themselves that’s so hard to look at.”

Who was involved in the movie?

It was directed by Emmy winner Susanne Bier and has Bullock in the leading role. The all-star cast also includes Sarah Paulson, who plays Bullock’s sister, John Malkovich of Dangerous Liaisons and In the Line of Fire, Trevante Rhodes, whose breakout role was the lead in the Oscar-winning Moonlight, and Jacki Weaver from Silver Linings Playbook.

Sandra Bullock and Trevante Rhodes
Andrew H. Walker/Variety/Shutterstock

What makes the movie so special?

Driving much of the chatter around the movie are the relationships at its center, namely Bullock’s character’s with her kids and the chemistry she shared with Paulson, 44. (They previously starred in Ocean’s 8 together.)

“They are a bit like sisters. Like between takes, they were talking one time and I was like, ‘Hey girls, I’m actually trying to direct you!’ ” Bier told PEOPLE in an exclusive first look at the film in October. “It was hugely important that there be a sense of humor in it, that it wasn’t gonna be a just entirely dark, scary film.”

Sandra Bullock and Sarah Paulson
Robert Ascroft/Netflix

“You had a very strong feeling of something beyond the friendly relationship between actresses,” she continued. “There is a real strong connection between the two of them and they had a lot of fun. And I think that’s exactly what you see in the movie, there’s a very direct understanding of one another.”

RELATED VIDEO: Sarah Paulson Reveals Her Favorite Things About Co-Star Sandra Bullock

Bullock’s commitment to the role is also palpable when watching.

“Sandy had a consultant who is someone who teaches people who have recently become blind, and helped her understand how to navigate a world where you can’t see,” Bier added. “She was really blindfolded. She’s such a dedicated and fearless actress that she was really blindfolded. It helped her tremendously.”

What was it like to film the movie?

Bullock told PEOPLE exclusively that the horror aspect of the movie was especially challenging for her because she “[hates] being scared” and that it was physically exhausting at times.

“I didn’t want it to look like somebody that had the experience,” she said of learning how to canoe — her character had never rowed a boat before. “I was really tired every day.”

Acting with kids also affected the dynamic on set, Bullock revealed.

“People always tell you don’t work with children and animals, and that’s because no one’s going to be looking at you when you have children and animals onscreen,” the mother of two mused. “That’s going to be the case with this because these two kids are heart-breakingly beautiful and good.”

Sandra Bullock in Bird Box
Merrick Morton/Netflix

She then raved that Julian Edwards, who plays her son, is “a little stunt dude” and that Vivian Lyra Blair, who plays her daughter, “has a case of the specials.” Bullock added that their talent was most obvious when she had to say horrible things to them while the camera was rolling.

“We always talked about it beforehand,” she recalled. “It, it wasn’t easy to watch, but when it was really real and organic, you knew that it would come across a lot more harrowing because they were feeling what they were feeling.”

Meanwhile, Paulson’s relationship with Bullock defined the experience for her.

“My favorite moment from an acting standpoint in the movie was right before my character had to confront [her] greatest fear,” Paulson told PEOPLE. “Right before I went, [Sandy] just like squeezed my hand … it just … made me have all these feelings right before, and I still feel incredibly connected to her.”

What are reviewers saying?

Bird Box earned a 66 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics praising its “strong acting and chilly mood” but also insisting that it “never quite reaches its intriguing potential.” It earned a 6.8 out of 10 on IMDB and 50 percent on Metacritic.

How can you watch the movie?

The movie is now streaming on Netflix.