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film

Richard Kelly’s The Box

Richard Kelly, The Box, 2009, still from a color film in 35 mm, 115 minutes. Arthur Lewis (James Marsden) and Norma Lewis (Cameron Diaz).

RICHARD KELLY, the writer and director of the haunting and uncannily prophetic Donnie Darko (2001) and the much-reviled but spot-on vision of our hyperbolic, media-saturated political landscape Southland Tales (2006), has attempted to prove himself a viable mass-market director with The Box, a Twilight Zone–style sci-fi/horror movie inspired by cult writer Richard Matheson’s skeletal 1970 story “Button, Button.” Despite a clumsy allegorical premise telegraphed in risibly heavy-handed dialogue, the movie generates a free-floating anxiety that lingers long after the lights come up. Emerging from the theater, I saw glaring evidence on the faces of everyone around me that they were victims of a mind-control experiment of which they were entirely unaware. You laugh? I’m still not sure I can.

Set in Richmond, Virginia, during the Christmas season of 1976—the year that NASA’s Viking

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