"Bird Box Barcelona" Trailer: The unseen evil force unleashed in Sandra Bullock's spin-off film

‘Bird Box Barcelona’ review: Spanish spin-off of Netflix horror hit tops slim concept for meager payoff

Susanne Bier’s 2018 apocalyptic sci-fi thriller for Netflix, Bird box, was a half-cooked stew of familiar ideas lifted above its derivative conception by an imposing Sandra Bullock, channeling grim determination as she braved a mysterious alien menace to get two children to safety. Trauma, pain and parenting under extreme duress are factors again in the sequel to Spanish brothers Alex and David Pastor, Birdhouse Barcelona, which is more of a spin-off than a sequel. It starts from scratch, anthology-style, slapping in new details that expand on the original threat without offering much enlightenment.

Related stories

The film is technically successful, well acted, atmospherically haunting, and definitely watchable. As an extension of a popular property that increases Netflix’s push into international production, it serves a dual purpose. But as genre material, it’s generic, as if the filmmakers had jumbled random elements together A quiet place, The Last of Us, Walking Dead and other dystopian nightmares about humanity being driven to the brink of extinction by a deadly force of unknown origin, creating a world where the dwindling number of survivors no longer know who to trust.

Birdhouse Barcelona

The bottom line

Engrossing enough, but not memorable.

Release date: Friday 14 June
Launch: Mario Casas, Georgina Campbell, Diego Bald, Naila Schuberth, Alexandra Howard, Patrick Criado, Celia Freijeiro, Lola Dueñas, Gonzalo de Castro, Michelle Jenner, Leonardo Sbaraglia
Directors-writers: Alex Pastor, David Pastor, based on the novel Bird boxby Josh Malerman

1 hour and 50 minutes

Building on Josh Malerman’s original 2014 novel and the central character of Bullock’s Malorie, the Pastors want to have both by explaining how the phenomenon works – anyone who sees the creatures is driven to take their own life as quickly as possible – while maintaining the ambiguity. Their script does too much and not enough to warrant a deeper dive into a story that has already suffered from gimmicks and shaky logic the first time around.

Moving the setting to a Catholic country allows for a slightly intriguing religious twist. An extravagant priest, Father Esteban (Leonardo Sbaraglia), welcomes the lethal entity as a divine miracle, freeing lost souls from the hell of life on earth. With a small group of fellow “seers”, who have witnessed the phenomenon but are resistant to his curse, the priest roams the streets smearing the survivors’ foreheads with a third eye and forcing them to accept their fate.

A significant new development in the spin-off is a flash of light emanating from bodies immediately after their death, suggesting a spiritual liberation that adds credence to Father Esteban’s belief that “our God and his angels have come down to walk the earth “. A dying man speaks as if in ecstasy: “Their ships traveled millions of light years to get here.”

But more rational characters are no closer to identifying what exactly is causing the mass suicides. Some see demons and others see aliens, some see their torturer and others their god. A character played by an underutilized Diego Calva (Babylon) hypothesizes that they are some kind of quantum beings that take on fluctuating forms, observing their prey and instantly absorbing their fears, anxieties and pains to manipulate their minds.

We experience the creatures’ arrival via shaking noises, moans, growls, and a strange gust of wind that kicks leaves and debris off the ground, and we occasionally see what they see. But audiences still don’t get to see them well, just the briefest partial glimpse in a final scene.

While some of the suicides are startling in their sudden violence, it’s all a little too vague to carry a kick as horror and too inevitable in its mounting fatalities to pack much suspense. The film doesn’t do enough to engage its audience, with subtle characters whose backstories are mostly hinted at by whispered rumors of their pasts, carried on the wind with the appearance of the amorphous menace.

The Pastor brothers traveled an adjacent territory with previous characteristics Vectorsabout a deadly viral threat, e Last days, another view of life after a cataclysm. They mirror the fussy flashback structure of Bier’s film in their construction, creating the central character, Sebastián (Mario Casas), as a desperate man, who roams the streets in dark glasses and hides in the abandoned buildings of Barcelona while trying to keep his 11-year-old daughter Anna (Alejandra Howard) from evil.

But after establishing Sebastián as a vulnerable hero when he’s set upon by a trio of blind thieves, the script quickly shifts our perceptions, making us question his motives as he gains the trust of one community of survivors after another. “Am I the shepherd or the wolf?” she asks in a moment of crisis when his actions cause him to lose faith, underscoring a duality that gives Casas something relatively meaty to play. We also notice quite soon that Anna is not quite what she seems.

Flashing back nine months earlier, the film recaps the onset of the epidemic. The news reports a rash of psychotic behavior as Sebastián rushes from his office across the chaotic city to retrieve Anna from school, narrowly avoiding being dragged into a mass suicide on a subway platform.

The action then cuts back to seven months before the opening scenes, after Sebastián has been accepted as part of a community hidden away in a bomb shelter. That group includes leader Rafa (Patrick Criado); English psychologist Claire (Georgina Campbell, who had more to work with Barbarian); preteen German tourist Sofia (Naila Schuberth), separated from her mother in the confusion; elderly couple Roberto (Gonzalo de Castro) and Isabel (Lola Dueñas); and Ottavio di Calva.

The plot engine, which ideally should have started earlier, involves that band of blindfolded survivors attempting to reach a refuge on the other side of town, Montjuïc Castle, the 17th-century mountaintop fortress accessible from the town by cable cars. Of course, the group’s numbers dwindle along the way, leaving a skeleton contingent of main characters to face a dual threat: from the force of otherworldly death and human crusaders determined to open their eyes to the “miracle.”

The fortress setting is an atmospheric place for a climactic fight that points the way for further sequels. Laia Colet’s production design overall is effective: even when the brushstrokes of the CG team are visible, seeing a wrecked cruise ship half-sunken in the harbor or decks festooned with dangling corpses gives a vivid sense of a world without mercy or hope. The film’s most impressive element, however, is its dense sound design, artfully blended with Zeltia Montes’ menacing score. Too bad there’s little in the story that gets under the skin with comparable skill.