Director Richard Kelly earned instant cult status with his bizarre and beloved debut Donnie Darko in 2001. This week he returns with The Box, a low-key thriller about a married couple (Cameron Diaz and James Marsden) who are given a strange box by a man with a rotting face (Frank Langella).
They are told that if they press the button in the box they will be given a million dollars, but someone somewhere in the world will die. It’s the type of creepy and deceptively simple premise that would have made a classic episode of The Twilight Zone. Which is why it should come as know surprise that the film is based on a short story by Richard Matheson, a longtime scribe for that show and childhood influence on Richard Kelly.
“The Box was a story that I was lucky enough to stumble upon as a child,” Kelly told Metro. “I think I was 10 or 11 years old when I first read it and then I was able to get the movie rights years later.”
Though obviously a story that fits into Kelly’s unique and dark style of filmmaking, it’s also a far simpler tale than his previous movies. According to Kelly, The Box represented a deliberate attempt to scale back his ambitions.
“Coming off of something as elaborate and complicated as Southland Tales I wanted to try something much smaller and more manageable,” revealed Kelly. “It was kind of refreshing for me to be able focus on a more intimate story about a married couple and also to try and embrace the aesthetic of 1970s filmmaking.” Kelly decided to set his story in the 1970s world of his childhood, even basing the main characters on his parents. “It was a way to make the story emotionally relevant to me and to pay tribute to them and their experiences,” admitted Kelly. “Plus this is the kind of movie they would love. They love Alfred Hitchcock films and thrillers.”