When it was released in 2018, Bird Box captured the hearts and minds of Netflix users across the world. It was the first time viewers had witnessed a film on a streaming service that provided the blockbuster experience, and within 28 days of its release it became the most-watched film on Netflix. To this day, it retains the fourth spot on that list.
It comes as a surprise, then, that it has taken five years for us to return to the Bird Box universe, but it was worth the wait. Directed by Álex and David Pastor, Bird Box Barcelona transports us to the Spanish city in a spin-off sequel that takes place in the same universe as the original movie.
Rather than following Sandra Bullock's Malorie Hayes through the post-apocalyptic world, Bird Box: Barcelona centres on Sebastian (Mario Casas) as he traverses the desolate streets of Barcelona in a bid to survive. He forms an uneasy alliance with a group of survivors, including British doctor Claire (Georgina Campbell) and German holidaymaker Sofia (Naila Schuberth), the latter being separated from her mother. The group decides to escape the city in search of safety, but they soon encounter dangers both human and otherworldly as a sinister threat grows among them.
From the opening scenes, it could be easy to think Bird Box Barcelona is simply a Spanish-language rehash of the original film, where survivors blindly stumble across a dangerous abandoned city in search of respite from the unseen beings trying to get into their heads. However, the film soon reveals its dark side, forcing the audience to stare at the ugliness of man and the lengths some will go to for their own misguided beliefs. The film ramps up the horror in ways the original only briefly touched on, expanding on the seers — people that have seen the mysterious beasts and yet were not driven to suicide. Instead, these people are forced to live out their days doing the bidding of the monsters by forcing others to join their ranks or perish. In this, Bird Box: Barcelona fleshes out the backstory of the apocalypse, and the devastating impact of the fall of humanity is made all the more heartbreaking.
The film is a more unsettling watch than its predecessor, with more savage scenes of brutality, grandiose set pieces and unnerving religious allegories that juxtapose horrifically against the destruction on screen. And despite some fans criticising the original film for not revealing the monsters behind the ruin of man, Bird Box: Barcelona continues in that vein, shrouding them in mystery. An effective tactic that adds to the film's unpredictability.
The strong narrative and visuals are heightened by the cast, who we can be sure to see a lot more of in the future if Bird Box: Barcelona can mirror some of the original's success. Barbarian's Georgina Campbell continues her incredible work in horror with her role as Claire, while Mario Casas is a captivating leading man who perfectly portrays Sebastian's complicated internal battle with survival guilt while striving to stay alive in this harsh environment.
Bird Box: Barcelona successfully builds on the groundwork of the original by providing a more fleshed-out world to house the unique and terrifying concept we were first introduced to five years ago. Though it expands this mythology, it keeps many elements of the world mysterious, offering up only small breadcrumbs for those eager to formulate their own theories and explanations. Whilst it may not garner the same reaction as Bird Box, Bird Box Barcelona is a welcome return to the viral franchise.
Bird Box Barcelona is released on Netflix on July 14