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The Box

You are the experiment. 

Year: 2009 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 12A Cert – Under 12s admitted only with an adult 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Richard Kelly 
Starring: Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, James Rebhorn, Frank Langella  
An image from The Box

The year is 1976. Norma (Diaz) and Arthur (Marsden) are a young couple struggling to make ends meet. Arthur has been rejected from the astronaut program at NASA because he failed the psychological exam. Norma has been informed that the school she teaches at will no longer cover the expensive tuition for her son. Without warning, a mysterious man with a horribly disfigured face named Arlington Steward (Langella) arrives at their house with an equally unsettling box, in which a big red button is encased in a glass dome. Unlocking the dome and pressing the button will cause two things to happen: the couple will be given one million dollars, but someone in the world they don't know will die. Will Norma and Arthur succumb to temptation to allay their financial difficulties? What forces will be unleashed should they give in?

The first thing one should say about The Box is that it was directed by Richard Kelly, who brought us cult hit Donnie Darko and the criminally ignored Southland Tales. Kelly has what one might describe as a "vivid imagination", and the dark recesses of his mind are written all over The Box. The above synopsis does not really do the film justice, as the titular receptacle is only the beginning of what is a bizarre and magnificently disturbing experience.

Special mention must be reserved for Frank Langella, who delivers a deliciously creepy turn as the keeper of the box. With seemingly little cause or concern for conventional narrative, Kelly has created a deeply unsettling film that will hurtle around your brain for days. One last observation however: if Richard Nixon asked you to push a big red button, would you do it? Unlikely, but not doing so will rob you of a wonderfully frightening ride.

Greg Frame

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Screenings of this film:

2009/2010 Summer Term (35mm)