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The Real Reason We Didn't See The Monsters In Bird Box

When Bird Box flew onto Netflix in late December, the post-apocalyptic horror-thriller quickly became something of a phenomenon. All anyone on the Internet could talk, tweet, and theorize about was Sandra Bullock's character, Malorie; her fight for survival in a world where deadly entities spark global mass suicide; and how the planet tumbled into such terrifying chaos. But the two biggest mysteries that are still lingering in viewers' minds are what the creatures look like and why the movie didn't actually show them. 

Thanks to Bird Box screenwriter Eric Heisserer, lead actress Bullock, and director Susanne Bier, we now have answers to both those questions. 

Heisserer, Bullock, and Bier recently sat down for an interview with Bloody Disgusting, and during the conversation, Heisserer revealed that the film very nearly included a scene in which the monsters are shown in their full form — which, according to Bullock, is the stuff of surreal nightmares. 

"There was a time when one of the producers was like, 'No, you have to see something at some point' and forced me to write essentially a nightmare sequence where Malorie experiences one in that house," Heisserer explained.

Bullock, whose character eventually makes it to a safe house by avoiding looking up at the creatures that are apparently flitting through the sky, offered a detailed account of what the monster looked like in the scene that didn't make it into the final cut of Bird Box

"It was a green man with a horrific baby face," said Bullock. "It was snake-like, and I was like, 'I don't want to see it when it first happens. Just bring it into the room. We'll shoot the scene.' I turn and he's like this [growling at me]. It's making me laugh. It was just a long fat baby."

A slithering beast with a baby face, darting around corners and tumbling through the skies isn't something anyone would be super jazzed to see, and is undeniably creepy, but there's a good reason why audiences never got to see such a thing.

After Bullock described the Bird Box monster, director Bier chimed into the chat to explain that the creature's design was a little more terrifying in theory than they were in practice, and that unveiling to viewers the monsters' appearance would take away their power.

"It so easily becomes funny. We actually shot that [scene] and spent a lot of energy on [it], but every time I saw it, I was like, 'This is not going to be tense. It's just going to be funny,'" Bier stated. "At first, Sandy was like, 'I don't want to see it,' because she thought it was scary. Then it was like, 'Don't show it to me because [I'll laugh].' Every time I did it, I was like, 'S***, that's a different film.'"

Heisserer added that he was "so sorry" Bier and Bullock had to shoot that sequence, but with hindsight, everyone can laugh about the situation and agree that the choice not to show the monsters in Bird Box was the right one. 

"We're going to deliver it to Saturday Night Live," said Bier, sharing that the more the team looked at the monsters, the more powerless they became. "Whatever those beings are, they tap into your deepest fear. Everybody's deepest fear is going to be different from the other person. I think to suddenly take upon a concrete shape in order to illustrate that becomes weak. Where the conceit is really strong, then trying to illustrate it is kind of almost meaningless. So it would have been the wrong decision."

Opting to keep the monsters' appearance ambiguous, only showing black shadows and wind gusts to signal their impending arrival, was a smart one, as it's often what we don't see that scares us most. (It's the reason why so many are afraid of the dark: it isn't darkness that's frightening, it's the thought of what might be lurking within it that chills spines and spikes blood pressure.) However, as anyone who has seen Bird Box will know, the film took the complete opposite approach with its depiction of the suicides that the creatures cause, showing the self-killings in great detail. 

Bier explained the thought process behind the all-in directorial choice, noting that Netflix doesn't "have any inhibitions at all" when it comes to such shocking sights and that the Bird Box team wanted everything to feel as real as possible without being unnecessarily gory.

"I think we pretty much wanted to do it so it felt real and at the time was harrowing. But not so that would become the essence of it. It's pretty much done so it's kind of this is what it would look like if they actually did what they are doing," she said. "I think if you stick to that, you get it relatively realistic."

Heisserer agreed, adding that although the core message of Bird Box is that "seeing is dangerous," no one involved with the film wanted to include a scene that asked "the audience to turn away from the screen" — whether that moment was a character's suicide or a shot of the monster that catalyzed it. 

Bird Box remains the talk of Twitter and the movie on everyone's mind, and with countless viewers comparing the film to John Krasinski's breakthrough fright-fest A Quiet Place, it's certainly aiding the renaissance of sense horror. That the film has captivated so many people without ever showing its main monsters is perhaps an even bigger accomplishment.