For Horror film lovers, Bird Box was the perfect Christmas present. Netflix reported the film scored a staggering 80 million views in the first four weeks after its release on 21 December alone. Aside from becoming Netflix’s most successful release to date, the film was also the centre of attention across multiple social media platforms, with many users posting memes inspired by the film – ultimately leading to the creation of the ‘Bird Box Challenge’. But what exactly has made this film such a hit?
For those unfamiliar with the film, Bird Box is an adaptation of the 2014 novel by American author, Josh Malerman, starring Sandra Bullock, Sarah Paulson and Trevante Rhodes, just to name a few. The film follows a mum (played by Bullock) and her two children (who she refers to as ‘Boy’ and ‘Girl’) trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world under threat from supernatural forces that they must not look at. The premise of the film is simple: if you see it, you die. While the audience never finds out what ‘it’ actually is, it’s hard to follow the story without being very aware of the tension in the room.
The hashtag #BirdBox was trending for several days after the release of the film, and many users shared a plethora of memes about the film
The Horror film is so successful partially down to the fact that it is genuinely scary. Viewers took to Twitter to share their opinions of the film, including the likes of Kim Kardashian tweeting: “Watching Bird Box. I really like it. Who has seen it?”. Much of the success actually stems from Twitter. The hashtag #BirdBox was trending for several days after the release of the film, and many users shared a plethora of memes about the film. One user tweeted “let me watch Bird Box real quick so I can relate to all these memes.” Viewers even started their own ‘Bird Box Challenge’, undertaking a series of tasks while blindfolded to emulate the events of the film, and sharing videos of it across YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
There is a certain irony about this, as many have claimed that the invisible monster in the film is, in fact, a metaphor for the evils of social media itself
While the power of social media is undeniable when it comes to the spread of Bird Box, questions were being raised about the legitimacy of the Twitter accounts behind many of the most popular memes. A video of a user clicking through the personal accounts of those who shared Bird Box memes, revealing that almost each one had a very low tweet and follower count. Critics began accusing Netflix of buying bots, or fake Twitter users, to promote its film. While there is no evidence (as of yet) that Netflix did purchase bots, it is the case that the film would not be as popular as it is without social media, especially Twitter. There is a certain irony about this, as many have claimed that the invisible monster in the film is, in fact, a metaphor for the evils of social media itself.
Despite the controversies the film has been hit with, not only the potential Twitter bots, but also backlash for including the sue of real-life disaster footage, as well as the dangerous craze it has inspired. Although Netflix condemned the ‘Bird Box Challenge’, the company only did so after a teenage girl drove her car into the path of oncoming traffic while blindfolded. So, it is all down to social media? It could be argued that the film was watched by so many people thanks to its late December release. For people who are tired of watching Home Alone or whatever Christmas special episode of every sit-com to ever exist, Bird Box was the perfect alternative viewing for over the Christmas period. Other films released around this period, like Aquaman also saw a similar positive response, bringing in over $500 million globally.
Whether it was the timing of the release, the genuinely scary and intense storyline, or the scarily huge power that social media holds, there’s no doubt that Bird Box is a hit. If this film has taught us anything, aside from always keeping our blindfolds on and not trusting any stranger, it is that the best form of marketing appears to be memes and hashtags.