The Box Trailer: Richard Kelly Does a Mean Stanley Kubrick Impression

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The first trailer for The Box debuted late Wednesday, featuring Cameron Diaz, James Marsden and Frank Langella in all their '70s-era period splendor. Another nod to the old days might be found in director Richard Kelly's liberal use of just about every shot, technique and theme he could borrow from The Shining. But in a good way! Sort of.

Adapting Richard Matheson's short story Button, Button, the Donnie Darko filmmaker offers the cautionary tale of a loving middle-class couple (Diaz and Marsden) confronted with some compounding economic pressures. Then, with Marsden's job apparently endangered, a strange package arrives on the family's doorstep. Not long after that, it's followed by a disfigured stranger (Langella) explaining the device inside: A nondescript button that, when pushed, will instantly kill someone they don't know while making them $1 million richer.

Tension and mystery ensue -- as do Kubrickian zooms, Steadicam glides, apparitions, snow, and other harbingers of the moral terror faced by the husband and wife. Instead of blood cascading from elevators, you get water pouring from ceilings; instead of a mysterious man in a bear suit, you get a Salvation Army Santa ringing a bell in the middle of a dark, icy road (after an explicit threat to mother and child, no less). If Diaz and Marsden's onscreen son were any younger, he would no doubt ride his Big Wheel to school instead of waiting for the bus in the cold.

Still, notwithstanding the convolutions of 2007's Southland Tales, Darko earned Kelly some kind of lifetime exemption from unwatchability, and both the gauzy texture of the images here and the new, recession-era relevance do wield a distinct appeal. Even if it's on loan, there's vision here. And of course you want to see the rest of what's going on with Langella's face, most of which is shielded in the trailer. Only four months to wait -- The Box will be the biggest, glossiest candy in your Halloween bag when it opens Oct. 30.

VERDICT: Intrigued, but probably not for the reasons Warner Bros. intended.



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