Bird Box Barcelona (2023) poster

Bird Box: Barcelona (2023)


USA/Spain. 2023.


Directors/Screenplay – Alex Pastor & David Pastor, Based on the Novel Bird Box by Josh Malerman, Producers – Dylan Clark, Adrian Guerra, Chris Morgan & Nuria Valls, Photography – Daniel Aranyo, Music – Zeltia Montes, Visual Effects Supervisors – Martin Hall & Carlos Zaera, Visual Effects – Lamppost (Supervisor – Alex Villagrasa) & Orca Studios, Special Effects Supervisor – Pau Costa, Makeup Effects – Pablo Perona & Lucia Solana, Production Design – Laia Colet. Production Company – Chris Morgan Productions/Dylan Clark Productions/Nostromo Pictures.


Mario Casas (Sebastian), Georgina Campbell (Claire), Naila Schuberth (Sofia), Alejandro Howard (Anna), Diego Calva (Octavio), Patrick Criado (Rafa), Lola Duenas (Isabel), Gonzalo De Castro (Roberto), Michelle Jenner (Lilliana), Leonardo Sbaraglia (Father Esteban), Jorge Asin (Marcial), Adelatif Hwidan (Lazaro), Celia Freijeiro (Laura)


Barcelona nine months after the world has been devastated by a catastrophe where everyone who opens their eyes outdoors is driven to commit suicide by mysterious creatures. Sebastian wanders through the ruins with his daughter Anna. He joins a group of survivors who maintain a shelter inside a bus depot. However, Sebastian is one of those who roam the ruins and are able to keep their eyes open. He takes a bus with several people aboard and crashes it outside where he forces everyone to remove their blindfolds and open their eyes to be killed. Nine months ago, Sebastian was a businessman caught up in the outbreak, struggling to get home to Anna and his wife Laura. After Laura was killed by a driver, he became one of those obsessed with forcing other survivors to see the ‘angels’ in the belief that the more souls he brought to them would earn his being reunited with Laura. Sebastian then finds another group but when he meets Sofia, a German girl who reminds him of Anna, he begins to doubt his mission.

Bird Box (2018) was a runaway hit on Netflix. It even inspired a social media phenomenon of people undergoing blindfolded Bird Box Challenges. I wasn’t a huge fan of Bird Box – it was okay but seemed to stand too much in the shadow of the much more successful A Quiet Place (2018), while explanations of exactly what was going on were frustratingly vague. This is a sequel.

The Spanish brothers Alex and David Pastor have emerged as talents well worth looking out for in the last few years. They made a very impressive directorial debut with the plague drama Carriers (2009). They followed this with The Last Days (2013) about a worldwide plague of agoraphobia and The Occupant (2020) about a former tenant who takes revenge against the people who moved into his apartment. They have also worked as screenwriters with the scripts for the ghost story Out of the Dark (2014) and Tarsem Singh’s bodyswap thriller Self/less (2015), as well as created the tv series Incorporated (2016-7) set in a future dominated by all-powerful corporations.

The Pastor Brothers give us a great opening where we are introduced to Mario Casas and daughter Alejandro Howard as they wander the ruins and come across other survivors where Casas persuades them to take him in to their shelter in a vast airplane hangar sized bus depot. As they settle in, things are abruptly turned on their head as he steals keys and takes one of the buses, crashing through into the daylight where he strips blindfolds and holds people’s eyes open, forcing them to see and then commit suicide. It is here that the cleverness of the reversal becomes apparent – where the Pastor Brothers mislead you in one direction, making you think that Mario Casas is a survivor before turning this on its head as you discover he is one of the very people wandering the ruins who can see in the open that others are warning about.

Gonzalo De Castro, Georgina Campbell, Mario Casas and Naila Schuberth in Bird Box Barcelona (2023)
(l to r) Gonzalo De Castro, Georgina Campbell, Mario Casas and Naila Schuberth try to survive outdoors

The Pastor Brothers give Bird Box: Barcelona a much darker tone visually in contrast to the largely nondescript one that Susanne Bier did Bird Box. (Bier is still present as an executive producer). This is something that draws you in and makes for a far more absorbing work. I think a part of the difference is that Susanne Bier comes from a background as a regular dramatic director, while the Pastor Brothers specialise in genre material and far more familiar with sub-genres like the Post-Holocaust – indeed, many of the sections of people living underground remind of their The Last Days.

Bier had at most a perfunctory interest in depicting the apocalypse but the Pastor Brothers open up with extended flashbacks to the initial catastrophe with the city engulfed in chaos with people hanging themselves, diving out of windows and landing on top of cars, and an en masse suicide on an underground train platform. They also harness a range of modest visual effects to depict wide angle shots of the city in ruins. It is a far more comprehensive view of the apocalypse.

The first Bird Box was simply concerned with the central characters and their survival in the strange world that had been created. There were never many scenes where Bier engaged us in their fight for survival. By contrast, with the Pastors dimming the lighting level, almost all of the scenes have a tension. A substantial part of this is their taking the radical step of making the point-of-view a character who is regarded as a boogeyman by all the others in both films. Of course, in making such a character sympathetic, the only real recourse the film leaves is for a redemption and sacrificial arc.

Trailer here

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