Richard Kelly‘s The Box, which opens today, was shooting in the Boston area two years ago; that in itself should tell you it has problems. The failing-grade RT reviews (44% hoi-polloi, 25% creme de la creme) are another. It’s Friday morning and the film is all but dead in the water — let’s face it. WB marketers knew it was a ruptured duck ages ago; that’s one reason why they took so long to open it.

So why did Media Rights Capital agree to fund the film after reading Kelly’s script? They had to know he’s not McG or Michael Bay, that his rep is that of a fringe-type guy who caught a wave off the video sales of Donnie Darko, and that he tends to make trippy head-bender flicks with labrynthian, multi-layered plots — any film geek could have told them that.

So there was no way he was going to make a quietly creepy, less-is-more, Ingmar Bergmanesque thriller out of the simple 1970 Richard Matheson short story that later became a Twilight Zone episode in the mid ’80s. (Which is what I would have preferred.) They had to know Kelly would take the story into the outer stratosphere. They also had to know that no matter what they may say in production meetings, brainy cult directors don’t make films for the Eloi.

The main problem, to go by just about every review, is that Kelly took a simple premise (if you could get rich by pushing a button that will cause a total stranger’s death, would you push it?) and loaded it down with waay too many oddball tangents and byzantine plot elements and metaphorical layers. In other words, he did exactly what any semi-aware, semi-comatose Media Rights Capital execs could have easily predicted would have happened when the project was green-lighted in early ’07.

I love Kelly’s stuff myself but he’s not “box office” — even his friends agree he’s not that. He’s off on his own beam. The problem with Kelly isn’t what he writes or directs; it’s the fact that the budgets for his films so far haven’t been set as realistically proportionate.