The Box

The Box (2009)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Frank Langella, James Marsden, James Rebhorn
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes, Interviews, Music Video Prequels

I remember watching the trailer of "The Box" some time ago and thinking to myself that this looks like an interesting story and a promising movie, so when Warner Home Video sent over a copy of the Blu-Ray version, I decided to give it a quick check-up to see if the film lived up to my expectations.

Based on a short story by Richard Matheson, "The Box" is an intriguing story in which Norma Lewis (Cameron Diaz) finds a strange box on her doorstep on day. Later in the day an even stranger man, Arlington Stewart (Frank Langella) appears in front of her door, explaining her that the box is a challenge he has for her and her husband Arthur (James Marsden), for if they press the button on the box they will receive $1 million. However, if they do so, somewhere, someone they do not know will die.

The couple is torn over the decision as they have only 24 hours to make up their minds. With Norma just having been laid off and finances tight, a million dollars sounds like a ticket out of their problems, yet at the same time, the young couple, naturally, does not want to shoulder the burden of having caused someone's death. Arthur carefully opens the box and realizing it is practically hollow, thinks the whole thing is a hoax… but what if it is not? Ultimately, the button is pressed and before long Mr. Stewart returns to the Lewis home with a briefcase filled with $1 million. However, something wicked has been set in motion by their action. Something that they cannot foresee or control and within days their entire world spins out of control. Frenzied, they try to reverse the course of things but find that whatever it is, it is much bigger than them…

Director Richard Kelly took the short story by Richard Matheson and fleshed it out with a bigger world and breathing characters that would hold up in such a larger story. The dilemma and the temptations the Lewis family are going through are exceedingly well portrayed, I found, and we can feel with the characters as they try to determine their next course of action. Cameron Diaz in particular is coming across as a tormented woman and makes the best of this highly dramatic and tragic part. Considering that she is best known for her comedic work, this is quite a change in pace for her and she did an admirable job in bringing Norma to life, complete with all her fears and trepidations.

The villain in the piece is played by Frank Langella, and deliciously so. Disfigured using computer-enhanced imagery, Langella is portraying Arlington Stewart in such an understated manner that he is terrifyingly menacing. As if all emotion had been drained from his character he states his points matter-of-factly as if they were the most normal thing in the world. With his soft-spoken voice and generally warm, non-threatening demeanor Langella propels his character to scary heights that spark the viewers imagination as to what he may truly be up to.

Richard Kelly does a good job keeping the story tight and suspense full, making the best of the sudden plot twists as the Lewis family is suddenly thrown into completely new circumstances just when they thought things turned for the better.

Warner Home Video has prepared a 1080p widescreen presentation of the film for this release, that is free of any speckles or blemishes and reveals a high level of detail. Clothing, set designs and decorations are beautifully reproduced in the image, faithfully restoring the retro look of the film as a whole. The transfer's colors are vivid and rich but never appear over saturated. Instead they do a great job at muting the color palette at times to enhance the visual effect of the film, while boosting it at other times. Skin tones are perfectly natural and with its deep blacks the transfer has plenty of visual depth with solid shadows.

A DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio track complements the disc, making the audio presentation equally impressive, as surround channels are used aggressively and frequently. Whether it is to create an ambient sound field or a more engaging effects based scene, the audio mix always strikes the right balance to make sure the viewer is right in the action.

In terms of extras ,the release contains a commentary track by director Richard Kelly in which he discusses many of the aspects of the film's production, from the initial idea to its final conception.

The featurette "Grounded in Reality" discusses in quite some detail how Richard Kelly used his own parents as templates for Norma and Arthur Lewis. Including interviews also with his parents viewers get a good idea just how much of their life stories Kelly has been able to project onto the Lewis family, making them those incredibly believable characters.

Also included is a short featurette showing how some of the effects shots in the film were created, as Richmond, Virginia, became a more dated look and Frank Langella's face was digitally distorted.

An interview with writer Richard Matheson is included on the disc also, giving the famed horror writer the opportunity to share his view on the story he wrote, its film adaptation and his work as a whole.

"The Box" is an entertaining film with plenty of twists. It seems to lack a certain something that makes it a truly memorable movie experience, but overall, it certainly delivers the goods with its creepy and suspenseful story, and seeing it in high quality on this high definition release makes it all the more fun.