THE STORY – After a mysterious force decimates the world’s population, Sebastian must navigate his own survival journey through the desolate streets of Barcelona. As he forms uneasy alliances with other survivors and they try to escape the city, an unexpected and even more sinister threat grows.
THE CAST – Mario Casas, Georgina Campbell, Alejandra Howard, Naila Schuberth, Diego Calva Hernández, Patrick Criado & Leonardo Sbaraglia
THE TEAM – David Pastor, Àlex Pastor (Directors/Writers) & Josh Malerman (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 110 Minutes
We all remember where we were when we saw Netflix’s 2018 horror hit “Bird Box” for the first time. The just-OK film, starring Sandra Bullock in a post-apocalyptic world, took social media by storm with endless memes and videos of people participating in the “Bird Box Challenge,” where they go about their lives blindfolded, as they do in the movie. When something takes over the zeitgeist like that, a sequel is almost always guaranteed.
Whether a sequel was really needed is beside the point because “Bird Box Barcelona”‘ is here to open up the “Bird Box” universe even more. The second installment, helmed by directors David Pastor and Àlex Pastor, draws on much of what made the first film so iconic: mysterious entities invade Earth and make people kill themselves when they see them. But “Bird Box Barcelona” adds more horror to the screen by showing how terrifying some humans are in this society.
It’s been some time since the world has fallen apart, thanks to the aforementioned mysterious creatures, and the audience is once again in the dark as to what they look like. Streets are covered in trash, destroyed cars, and corpses. If you’re lucky to encounter a human in this world, they’re terrified, hungry, and untrusting of others. But Sebastian (Mario Casas) and his daughter Anna (Alejandra Howard) stand out. They’re not as scared or freaked out as the rest of society – they do whatever they can to survive. Terrifyingly enough, that includes luring people out of safety and forcing them to see the monsters. Somehow these two are immune to the creatures, as Sebastian sees beauty in their sinister ways, but he’s not the only one.
In “Bird Box,” we got a glimpse at how much these maddening times have changed people, like when stranger Gary (Tom Hollander) revealed himself to be a mentally unstable person who similarly lured people into looking at the creatures. Still, it’s much more sinister in “Bird Box Barcelona.” Through a series of flashbacks, the film reveals how Sebastian and his daughter found themselves among a horrifying group led by Father Esteban (Leonardo Sbaraglia), a local priest who believes he’s looking into the eyes of God and witnessing miracles around him. This group can walk the streets without blindfolds, and they’re easily the most exciting aspect of this film. Just their appearance is enough to bring so much unease, but they also appear too sporadically.
Sebastian later finds himself with another group made up of survivors: Claire (Georgina Campbell), a young German girl named Sofia (Naila Schuberth), Octavio (Diego Calva Hernández), and Rafa (Patrick Criado). Though Sebastian comes to the group with ulterior motives, he begins to change his ways when he tries to help the group reach a safe haven where Sofia’s mother might be located. The journey, however, is complicated thanks to the monsters that now walk among them, creating several frightening sequences.
Netflix very easily could have flown on autopilot and copied the first movie entirely just to make another hit. While many story elements are similar – survivors trying to get to a safe location, utilizing children in the story, and bad guys galore – “Bird Box Barcelona” tackles this world in a new, more sinister way. You don’t expect the lead character to be among the more shady individuals in the story, but that’s what makes it more exciting. What will Sebastian do within each group, and how long until they realize they brought in a madman? Casas is genuinely scary as he steps into the role of Sebastian. On the outside, he looks like a kind man you can trust, but it’s the secrets he keeps inside that make him such an unnerving character. The new environment also helps this sequel feel fresh. The ruined city landscape and the creepy forces lurking in alleyways and abandoned buildings bring fear to a new level, similar to how HBO’s “The Last of Us” did in its apocalyptic universe.
While there might not be as many silly or iconic moments in “Bird Box Barcelona” as in its predecessor (think Sarah Paulson crashing her car), the film does a solid job of expanding the universe that drew in so many viewers five years ago. The stakes feel even more real this time, and the people our survivors encounter are even more fascinating, even if they are what nightmares are made of. It all leads to one question in the end: Where will this franchise take us next?