My, how the mighty have fallen—the mighty Richard Kelly, to be exact. Mr. Donnie Darko has written and directed a tremendously bad film—The Box—based on a Twilight Zone episode (1980s vintage) based on a short story by Richard Matheson (1970s vintage). A middle-class couple in '70s Virginia receives a mysterious present, a box with a button protected by a glass dome. A man with a big hole burned into his face explains the deal: Press the button and you get a million dollars, but somebody you don't know will die.

Easy, right? The couple is middle-class with a NASA husband (James Marsden), a Beckett-teaching wife (Cameron Diaz), and an annoyingly smart-ass son (Sam Oz Stone). They're running out of money to send their kid to private school, but it's not like they're starving or anything. And since rule number one in life is Don't Make Deals with Devils, they shouldn't push the button.

Of course they push the button, almost casually. Why? It's hard to say. But it's hard to say why anyone does anything in this movie. Why does the wife respond to a personal query by a creepy student—"why do you limp?"—by pulling off her sock and revealing her hideously burned foot and then claiming the student humiliated her? She humiliated herself! Why does hole-in-face man (Frank Langella) have a magically fast healing rate that can't seem to heal the hole in his face? Why does he send NASA man through a portal into the afterlife and then suck him back to normal life? (This has no bearing on the rest of the film.) Why are his alien "employers" "testing" the human race with this box trick? Why is he teleporting human beings out of Virginia via a pool of viscous silver liquid? Why is a pack of zombielike mouth-breathers pursuing NASA man around a library? Why, why, why?

The whys could go on for a hundred years, but the answer is obvious: The Box only has enough material to sustain a 30-minute Twilight Zone episode. Couple gets box, couple pushes button to receive a million dollars and steal the life of someone they don't know. Hole-in-face man shows up, takes box, says he'll give it to someone else—someone they don't know. The movie should have ended there, but Richard Kelly had another hour and change to kill so he cooked up a string of quasi-creepy improbabilities that lack the internal logic required to achieve true creepiness.

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Kelly could've run the other direction for a Lynchian randomness that seems creepy because it has no internal logic, but The Box hangs in a netherworld between successfully creepy logic and successfully creepy illogic that is just confusing, frustrating, and, at times, unintentionally funny.

What was good about The Box: the wallpaper in the couple's home. Its orange pop-art geometry really popped, like something from a Terry Gilliam movie. And the hole-in-face makeup wasn't bad—watching the man's rear teeth through the lesion in his face is nauseating and mesmerizing. Everything else about The Box was a waste of time and money. recommended

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