In December 2018, before the pandemic, “Bird Box” became a massive hit on Netflix, captivating audiences with Sandra Bullock’s intense performance.
Was it because the movie was good? Is Watercooler worthy? Universal love for Bullock? Maybe it was just something new that everyone in the house could agree on. It’s fascinating and frustrating to see movies, good and bad, that came and went in their time in the past 30 years hitting a nerve with the culture at once because they happen to be on Netflix. “Bird Box” may not have been a great film, but it was exciting and intriguing enough at the exact right moment, with a good cast and all the dressings of a Hollywood movie from its director (Suzanne Bier) to its score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. And it had a sheen of “edginess,” that can-you-believe-it factor that would benefit “Squid Game” later.
Unsurprisingly, Netflix wanted to capitalize on that popularity, even five years later, but “Bird Box Barcelona” is not it. The film, streaming Friday, boasts some impressive action sequences, but its reliance on the shock value of the suicides wears thin, becoming both tedious and gratuitous as the movie stretches on and on and on.
This story, written and directed by David and Alex Pastor, is set an ocean away from the first film. It also embraces dual timelines that meet up to reveal some sort of truth about the protagonist, Sebastian (Mario Casas), and his young daughter Anna (Alejandra Howard). He, like everyone, is haunted by what’s happening and searching for some kind of meaning behind it. Sebastian is an unreliable protagonist with some secrets, too – maybe he’s not even a good guy. Why, very early in the film, when telling some randoms on the street that he knows where a generator is, does he say he’s alone when Anna is standing right next to him?
This post-apocalyptic world is as bleak and inhumane as it gets – especially with factions of city-dwellers led by a priest (Leonardo Sbaraglia) convinced that this version of death is the only true way to salvation. The one grace in the movie is an English psychiatrist, Claire (Georgina Campbell), who seems to be the only real human around, but unfortunately, she’s been sidled with a cliche de-facto mother plot to care for a very thinly drawn young German girl, Sofia (Naila Schuberth), who has lost her mother.
I suppose no one who is coming to “Bird Box Barcelona” has had much of a problem with the suicide hook, but it is as cut-rate as it gets. There is no thrill, entertainment, or insight to be gleaned in watching the myriad ways people can die by their own hands. It’s just awful, and this is not a film that is interested in grappling with the trauma in any interesting or helpful way. Instead, it is two hours of unpleasant drudgery.
And, unfortunately, like many horror movies before it, more information and explanations about the mysterious suicidal forces at large do not enhance the suspense for the audience. Instead, it just makes everything dumber.