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</script></div>{/googleAds}Richard Matheson, Richard Matheson, Richard Matheson: a name that should send you running into the theatre or, at the very least, to the bookstore. He's a genius of storytelling and of the horror/fantasy genre, writer for both Star Trek and The Twilight Zone. He's Horror's original king of twists and turns; the precursor to the successes enjoyed by Stephen King and George A. Romero. Everything he has written induces nail-biting, teeth-gnashing, and hair-pulling with every page turned by its reader. Yeah, he's that good. Unfortunately, Hollywood struggles with getting his material right and often stumbles when they stray from the source material. Writer-director Richard Kelly's The Box, while better executed than most Matheson adaptations (specifically in mind is I Am Legend), is another in a long list of films with shoulda-coulda-woulda potential despite of or maybe its because of Kelly's wicked imagination.

The BoxThe story begins, as did the original story, with a mysterious box arriving for unhappily married Arthur and Norma Lewis, played effectively especially for the darkly-horrific subject matter - by James Marsden and Cameron Diaz. A note attached to the wooden box informs the couple that â"Mr. Steward Will Call On You" and, as promised, at 5 PM, one Arlington Steward (Frank Langella) arrives with a key for the button and a choice: Push the button on the box and receive $1 million; however, someone somewhere will die as a result of the button being pressed. You have one hour to decide, he informs. The first part of the movie is concerned with the ethical/unethical debate and weighing of the moral dilemma as the couple teeters on the edge of financial collapse; this part is Matheson's original four-page story.

Yet, it is when Kelly's wicked Donnie Darko imagination takes over that the film begins to bury itself in a series of events that seem so out-of-this-realm-of-possibility that there's little hope for any audience member to make sense of or stay focused. The second half of the padded plot (keep in mind that Matheson's original morality story, â"Button, Button", was extremely short) is intensely hyper-fueled with Kelly's imaginative and surreal additions; so much so that his flourishes threaten to break the film apart, but somehow the story manages rather clumsily and at times to bring everything together with consequence and conscience still in question. Kelly's choices in additional sci-fi structure and story are seemingly limitless once the whole NASA connection really gets going; however, his story embellishments are only held together by the strength of his tight direction. His characters (because Matheson's original characters are totally dissolved and changed by what Kelly adds) are so shaken and so beaten by the events of the narrative that it's a wonder the film even has a conclusion that doesn't include the world's destruction and bring new meaning to the phrase â"a thin line between love and hate".

What is crushing about the film is that Kelly's intentions couldn't be purer; he's dedicated to the imagination of Matheson the whole of Darko is proof enough of that. Yet, it is his additions that both fill out and convolute the once-clear narrative of The Box. Despite the poor marketing of the film (perhaps you've caught a faint echo of the Saw theme in the trailer in an effort to connect that series' themes to Kelly's work), the film stands apart from traditional dime-a-dozen teen horror movies such as Final Destination and a slew of others (and I'm not knocking Saw here). While some will suggest, myself included, that a director's cut of the movie will clear up some of the confusing gaps in the story, there are some that will enjoy it just for the sheer bizarreness of the situations Arthur and Norma find themselves in. The movie works complete with its sci-fi flaws and all. Reminiscent at times of the twists and turns of Secret Window, but without the magnetic draw or the talent of Depp, The Box will please hardcore fans of the horror genre and of Donnie Darko, but hardcore fans of Matheson have little to chew over.

Component Grades
2 stars
2 stars
DVD Experience
2 stars


Blu-ray Details:

While the film is a better fit for the small screen and much better upon second viewing, serious blu-ray owners should think twice before forking out the dough for this one. It has one special feature: â"Richard Matheson: In His Own Words". It's great to have this interview, seeing how Matheson is well-respected among horror fans, but with this almost five minute feature, The Box is complete. There is nothing else. No Making-Of featurette, no Behind-the-Scenes. Nothing.

Screen Formats: 2.39:1

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Language and Sound: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1



  • Feature-length commentary track with Writer/director/producer Richard Kelly.


  • Richard Matheson: In His Own Words (HD, 5 minutes)

Number of Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD) Digital copy (on disc); DVD copy.