Based on a short story by Richard Matheson that I haven’t read, THE BOX is the story of a young couple faced with an awful choice. Cameron Diaz and James Marsden play a schoolteacher and a scientist, respectively, who live and work in Virginia in 1976. She teaches at an exclusive private school, he’s an engineer for NASA who wants to be an astronaut. They have a young son and appear to be a happy couple.
But then things start going wrong for them, not the least of which is the unexpected appearance of a strange box on their doorstep. Then they get a visit from the disfigured stranger who left it there, who has an ominous proposition for them. If they push the button on the box, they’ll get a million dollars in tax-free cash, which they sorely need. But, as the stranger explains, if they push the button, someone they don’t know, somewhere in the world, will die at that same moment.
It’s a creepy set-up for a story, and the filmmakers play that creepiness for all it’s worth. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to reveal that the button gets pushed, and of course, bad things happen and nothing turns out like the people involved think that they will (although I was waiting for one more twist that never showed up).
THE BOX is a well-made movie, but I think it would be a stretch to say that I actually liked it. It’s such a cold, bleak, and impersonal film, without even any small moments of humor to break up the grim proceedings. At least that’s the way it seemed to me. And of course, it’s entirely possible that’s the way it’s supposed to be. But it didn’t really work for me, and while I’m not going to say you shouldn’t watch it, I can’t actually recommend it, either.