Richard Kelly has completed The Box, his Twilight Zone-esque follow-up to Donnie Darko and the deliriously insane Southland Tales. The film, which adapts a story by science fiction legend Richard Matheson, comes out this Halloween.

After the critical and commercial misstep that was Southland Tales, writer-director Kelly is looking for a comeback - and when your cinematic strengths are in science fiction and horror, it's hard to think of a firmer foundation than adapting from Richard Matheson, whose 1970 short story "Button, Button" provides the basis for the The Box.


The film follows Cameron Diaz and James Marsden as a couple in 1976 struggling with marital and financial issues. A mysterious stranger (Frank Langella) gives them a box and a simple proposition: push the button on the box and they get a million dollars… but someone they don't know will die. This is the second major adaptation of Matheson's story, following a 1986 episode of The New Twilight Zone.

According to a post on Kelly's Myspace, the film was shot last March and completed post-production at the end of 2008. The extensive, eight-month post-production period was due to the 300 visual effects shots the film required, which is triple what Kelly used in Southland Tales. Warner Brothers, the film's distributor, considered releasing the film this March, but all parties involved quickly agreed it made much more sense to put the film out during Halloween season, hence the release date of October 30, 2009.

Kelly writes that this is his most personal film yet, which, considering how weird and uncompromising his first two movies were, must really be saying something. Fans of sweeping baroque pop indie-rock (guilty as charged) will be interested to know that Arcade Fire's Win Butler and Regine Chassagne, and their frequent collaborator Owen Pallett provided over eighty minutes of score for the film. There will also be music from the Grateful Dead, Derek and the Dominos, Wilson Pickett, The Marshall Tucker Band, and Scott Walker. The film clocks in at an hour and fifty-five minutes, including the end credits.


So how about it? I've got to admit that Donnie Darko left me cold when I watched it a few years ago, and I've yet to summon up the raw courage necessary to work through Southland Tales. Still, there is a delightful strangeness to Kelly's films, and this does sound rather promising. Is this the sort of commercially viable film with a recognizable cast that can finally introduce the public at large to the insanity of a Richard Kelly movie?

[Richard Kelly's Myspace]


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