Remember Bird Box? Surely you must, since it allegedly became the most popular movie ever on Netflix at the time of its release. This also proves that a whole lot of people will watch a movie — relative quality notwithstanding — for no other reason than… it’s there. Given that everyone has supposedly watched that film, no one should need to be reminded that it was a post-apocalyptic-ish horror film about a single mother of two trying to escape to some place of safety in a world overrun by never-glimpsed monsters of unknown origin. Also, minor detail: these monsters will drive anyone who sees them to immediately commit suicide.
Five years later, and we now have Bird Box Barcelona, a side-quel of sorts following an entirely new set of characters in a new location. Right off the bat, we meet Sebastian (Mario Casas) and his daughter Anna (Alejandra Howard), the duo searching for a moment of peace while scavenging through the titular city, where they must remain blindfolded at all times lest they spy one of the thingies. They’re accosted by some naturally blind folks, who in this topsy-turvy world have a special advantage and who’ve apparently become marauding thugs (is this somehow ableist?). But Anna convinces her dad to not fight back and murder them. Eventually, they find their way to another band of refugees hiding in an abandoned bus terminal. The less said about what’s really going on with Sebastian and Anna the better, as that twist — which comes within the first 20 minutes or so — constitutes the sole interesting and imaginative idea present in this entire affair.
Without going into any specifics, Sebastian isn’t quite what you’d call a likable protagonist, and his relationship to the scary monsters is the narrative engine that drives the plot. That plot, though, is ultimately as generic as possible, not remotely dissimilar to, say, either of the Quiet Place movies: the main characters seek safety but must leave their shelter; new characters appear who may or may not be trustworthy; and eventually it turns out that, as it so often the case in these unimaginative affairs… people are the scariest monsters of all.
In fairness, there are one or two vaguely effective sequences, one involving a bus careening through a warehouse, and the other the climax of a sort, set on a gondola. But mostly we’re left to simply occupy the same space as the characters, the setting limited to dark buildings and deserted, trash-strewn city streets. You’ve seen literally every element of this movie before, which almost makes it refreshing that you never actually find out anything about the monsters at all, especially what they look like. Ultimately, though, it’s hard to imagine that if viewers were treated to such a reveal, that it wouldn’t just look like every other CGI movie alien. And in fact, that assumption basically works as synecdoche for the film we are given: a relentlessly generic work content to merely shut its eyes and spin its wheels.
You can currently stream David and Alex Pastor’s Bird Box Barcelona on Netflix.
Published as part of InRO Weekly — Volume 1, Issue 28.