The Box (12a)

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The Independent Culture

Richard Kelly, having wowed audiences in 2001 with Donnie Darko, baffled them in 2007 with Southland Tales, an unholy mess of dystopian sci-fi and anti-globalisation satire.

His latest, The Box, is less hysterical than that, but it's just as surely another mess. Cameron Diaz and James Marsden play a married couple in suburban Virginia, 1976, who one day have a mysterious box deposited on their doorstep. Inside is a device that looks like the quiz game Boggle, only with a large button on top. Later, an elderly stranger (Frank Langella) with half his jawbone missing arrives to explain the deal: if they press the button they will receive $1m in cash, but on the understanding that someone, somewhere, will die. From this box of tricks pops any number of freakish tangents – lightning strikes, nosebleeds, alien signals, twilight zones – which only somebody with a vast amount of spare time would bother trying to solve (and possibly not even then). "Let me kill myself," sobs Diaz at one point, and you might just sympathise. The single question I wanted to ask was: how many more times will a studio allow Richard Kelly to commit career suicide?