Plugged in movie reviews: Unmasking the Thrills: Exploring ‘Bird Box Barcelona’ – A Spanish Spinoff That Adds a New Dimension to Netflix’s Horror Phenomenon 😬
Plugged in movie reviews: Unmask the thrilling secrets of ‘Bird Box Barcelona’! Dive into this Spanish spinoff that takes Netflix’s horror phenomenon to new heights. Experience a chilling dimension like never before. Discover more now
Production companies: Chris Morgan Productions, Dylan Clark Productions, Nostromo Pictures
Producers: Dylan Clark, Chris Morgan, Adrián Guerra, Núria Valls
Executive producers: Ainsley Davies, Brian Williams, Josh Malerman, Ryan Lewis, Susanne Bier
Production designer: Laia Colet
Director-screenwriters: Alex Pastor, David Pastor, based on the novel Bird Box, by Josh Malerman
Director of Photography: Daniel Aranyó
Casting: Anna González
Star Cast: Mario Casas, Georgina Campbell, Diego Calva, Naila Schuberth, Alejandra Howard, Patrick Criado, Celia Freijeiro, Lola Dueñas, Gonzalo de Castro, Michelle Jenner, Leonardo Sbaraglia
Editor: Martí Roca
Duration: 1 hour 50 minutes
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Susanne Bier’s 2018 Netflix film, “Bird Box Barcelona” was a mixture of familiar ideas, lacking originality. However, Sandra Bullock’s powerful performance as she portrayed a determined woman facing an enigmatic alien threat while protecting two children elevated the film. The sequel, “Bird Box Barcelona,” directed by Spanish siblings Alex and David Pastor, is more of a spinoff than a true continuation. Taking an anthology approach, the film introduces new elements that further explore the original danger but fail to shed much light on it.
Susanne Bier’s 2018 apocalyptic sci-fi film for Netflix, “Bird Box Barcelona,” showcased technical proficiency, impressive performances, and an unsettling atmosphere that kept audiences engaged. As part of Netflix’s expansion into international production, the movie served a dual purpose. However, when it comes to its genre elements, the film can be considered generic. It feels as though the filmmakers randomly combined elements from “A Quiet Place,” “The Last of Us,” “The Walking Dead,” and other dystopian narratives where humanity faces the threat of extinction by an unknown force. Within this world, the dwindling number of survivors grapple with a lack of trust, unsure of who can be relied upon.
Deviating from Josh Malerman’s 2014 novel and Sandra Bullock’s central character, Malorie, the Pastors attempt to strike a delicate balance in “Bird Box Barcelona.” On one hand, they delve into an explanation of how the phenomenon works—where anyone who lays eyes on the creatures is driven to immediate self-destruction. On the other hand, they strive to maintain an air of ambiguity. Unfortunately, their script falls short on both accounts, offering excessive and insufficient justifications for further exploration in a story that already suffered from contrivances and shaky logic in its initial iteration.
In the Spanish setting of “Bird Box Barcelona,” a Catholic country, an intriguing religious element comes into play. Father Esteban (played by Leonardo Sbaraglia), a fervent and wild-eyed priest, views the lethal entity as a Divine miracle, liberating lost souls from the torment of earthly life. Alongside a small group of fellow “seers,” who have encountered the phenomenon but remain immune to its curse, the priest roams the streets, marking survivors with a symbolic third eye on their foreheads and compelling them to embrace their inevitable destiny.
One notable addition in the spinoff, “Bird Box Barcelona,” is the introduction of a compelling phenomenon. Upon death, bodies emit a radiant flash of light, hinting at a spiritual release that lends credibility to Father Esteban’s conviction that “Our God and his angels have descended to walk among us.” In a moment of rapture, a dying man utters words that suggest an otherworldly encounter: “Their ships have traveled millions of light years to reach us.”
However, despite the characters’ attempts to unravel the mystery, the true nature of what is causing the widespread suicides remains elusive in “Bird Box Barcelona.” Some perceive them as demons, while others perceive them as extraterrestrial beings. Some view them as tormentors, while others interpret them as deities. Diego Calva’s character (Babylon), who is unfortunately underutilized, speculates that they may be quantum entities capable of assuming various forms, observing their victims and instantaneously absorbing their fears, anxieties, and sorrows to manipulate their minds.
The arrival of these creatures is accompanied by unsettling sounds, groans, growls, and a chilling gust of wind that lifts leaves and debris from the ground. Although we occasionally catch glimpses through their perspective, the audience is never granted a clear look at them, only catching the briefest and most fleeting glimpse in the final scene.
While there are instances of shocking and abrupt violence in some of the suicide scenes, the lack of clarity detracts from the intended horror impact, leaving the audience with a sense of vagueness. The mounting fatalities, although inevitable, fail to generate significant suspense. The film falls short in fully engaging its viewers, with thinly developed characters whose backstories are mostly hinted at through whispered voices from their past, carried by the wind alongside the enigmatic threat that takes shape.
The Pastor brothers, known for their previous works such as “Carriers,” which revolves around a deadly viral threat, and “The Last Days,” another portrayal of life following a cataclysm, traverse familiar territory with “Bird Box Barcelona.” They employ a similar fragmented structure of flashbacks seen in Bier’s film, introducing Sebastián (played by Mario Casas) as a desperate man navigating the streets with dark goggles, seeking refuge in the abandoned buildings of Barcelona, all in an effort to protect his 11-year-old daughter Anna (played by Alejandra Howard) from harm.
The script takes a swift turn in “Bird Box Barcelona” after establishing Sebastián as a vulnerable hero who falls victim to a group of blind robbers. As the story progresses, our perception of Sebastián is challenged, leading us to question his motives as he gains the trust of various survivor communities. In a moment of crisis, he grapples with his actions and the loss of faith, pondering whether he is the shepherd or the wolf. This internal conflict adds a layer of complexity to Casas’ character, offering him a relatively substantial role to portray. Early on, we also discover that Anna, Sebastián’s daughter, holds secrets of her own, making her character intriguing from the outset.
The film employs a narrative technique by jumping back nine months earlier to recount the outbreak’s initial stages. Through news reports, we witness a wave of psychotic behavior as Sebastián navigates the chaotic city to rescue Anna from school, narrowly avoiding being caught up in a mass suicide incident on a metro platform.
The narrative takes another shift, this time seven months before the opening scenes, as Sebastián becomes part of a community seeking refuge in a bomb shelter. This diverse group includes Rafa (played by Patrick Criado), the leader; Claire (portrayed by Georgina Campbell, known for her work in “Barbarian”), an English psychologist; Sofia (played by Naila Schuberth), a young German tourist separated from her mother during the chaos; Roberto (played by Gonzalo de Castro) and Isabel (played by Lola Dueñas), an older couple; and Octavio (played by Diego Calva).
The driving force of the plot, which ideally should have been introduced earlier, revolves around the band of blindfolded survivors embarking on a perilous journey across town to reach Montjuïc Castle, a 17th-century mountaintop fortress accessible by cable cars. Along the way, the group faces dwindling numbers as they encounter both the otherworldly force of death and human crusaders determined to expose them to “the miracle” by removing their blindfolds.
The climactic struggle set in the fortress provides a visually striking location and hints at the possibility of future sequels. Laia Colet’s production design is effective, creating a sense of immersion in a merciless and hopeless world. Even when the CG effects are noticeable, scenes such as a partially submerged cruise liner in the port or bridges adorned with hanging corpses deliver a vivid portrayal of a world devoid of mercy or hope. The film’s most impressive aspect, however, lies in its dense sound design, masterfully blended with Zeltia Montes’ ominous score. Regrettably, the story itself fails to match this level of skill in truly getting under the audience’s skin.
Author: Sangeeta Verma
Sangeeta Verma is highly experienced professional with a Master’s degree in Mass Communication. With over 10+ years of experience in the field, Sangeeta Verma has established themselves as a respected blogger, film critic, and freelance reviewer. Their in-depth knowledge and understanding of the entertainment industry, coupled with their exceptional communication and writing skills, make them an asset to any project. Sangeeta Verma has a keen eye for detail, and their insights and analysis have been published in numerous well-respected publications. Her passion for the work is evident in everything she does, and committed to delivering high-quality content that engages and informs the audience.