What I really liked about this film was that it mostly kept the integrity of the main goals of the novel with a few variations that were probably absolutely necessary for a viewing audience. It’s probably a miracle that the filmmakers didn’t go the alien or toxic cloud route in showcasing the diegetic horror to viewers. With the exception of Gary’s diverse charcoals of creatures that his insane mind had seen (which was a very clever way to give something to the audience), we weren’t treated to the terror outside in a way that other filmmakers would’ve blasphemed the original intent just to create some CGI monstrosity. I like that there was a LOST-esque rustling of leaves when the creatures were near and the certainly more intense moments when the entity’s energy was clearly stronger.
That’s where I’ll start–at the end. I’m going to take a stab at their presentation of the entity at the end, near the school, as a concentration equivalent to the survivors inside. The discombobulation Malorie and the kids experience in their final push to safety, and her quick course-corrections as she learns something potentially new about the creatures’ tactics–i.e. taking on Tom’s voice in those frantic moments, mere days after his death. Is he absorbed into the collective consciousness of the entity? Are they clever and can mimic voices of loved ones, somehow keeping a catalogue of whose voice will work with YOU?! I really have no idea and don’t need to other than pondering the possibilities.
The other thing I found welcome in terms of how the film differed from the book was how the CCTV monitors at the home were used in place of the dog scene with Malorie to indicate how far-reaching the creatures’ effects were. I thought that was a clever way to also not kill a dog. It was already bad enough that everyone was suffering. They must not have wanted to discourage the viewing audience with a resilient pup in the crosshairs. I agree with this choice, narratively speaking, because the viewing audience is watching on a screen. The viewing audience is watching someone watching a screen. It intensifies the terror.
However, that’s really where Tom comes in. His deep love and desire to keep Malorie and the kids safe was the best part of the film–except that he had to die to show it to the viewers. He had a shred of resistance, for that tiny moment, and he didn’t waste time. He succumbed but only after his goal was met. It’s that glimmer of hope that left me with a feeling that despite it all, if he can resist for those three seconds to aim, shoot, and fire that gun at the marauder, then there’s an infinitesimal chance that humanity, in general, can resist. I think that’s the hope that I’ve seen mentioned in interviews with Susanne Bier–not the hope that there’s a haven and community. But in that moment, the one Tom suffered through to show us–we get our own hope and a sense of his ultimate badassery, which is one of the reasons this was a great film.
In having watched it twice now, I see almost no wasted effort in the narrative or in the scenes as they were edited. My only caveat to this is that I did not see a need really for Dr. Lapham to show up again at the end, but I do believe the wrap-up trope is still a strong formula for Hollywood audiences so we’ll have to give them that one.
As a character, Malorie is certainly strong and is someone who compartmentalizes. I can relate to her not naming the children, and claiming Boy as her own, because I can see that living in a mode of detachment helps with survival. Don’t love them like a mother because if they die, you’ll hurt more. We enter the film through her character, where she is presented as in denial already, distant, not coming to terms with her reality. On many levels, I can relate–with family, with things lost or never gained, with friends, with all kinds of things. And the book presents Malorie as such a strong woman too. You see a woman maximizing her commitment to survival. She puts her head down and keeps her blinders (not her blindfold) on to achieve her goal. I think many women feel this way–we have to do this or we will be lost to obscurity.