Dir: David Pastor + Alex Pastor
Star: Mario Casas, Naila Schuberth, Georgina Campbell, Diego Calva
After it came out in December 2018, the original Bird Box became the most-watched Netflix Original movie ever. It held the crown for almost three years, and still sits third. Not bad, for a film which was almost more of a meme than anything. It was… okay [reviewed over at Girlswithguns.org]. Given the success, a sequel was inevitable, and I think it works better this time. It takes the story in more interesting directions, rather than just having Sandra Bullock staggering about a forest in a blindfold. It probably helps that the Pastor brothers already have a very impressive apocalyptic horror under their belts. 2013’s The Last Days shares a number of elements with this, not least its location.
As before, the world has been invaded by entities, whose mere sight triggers irresistible suicidal impulses in most. There are exceptions, known as “seers”, who are immune to the effect, and actively try to cause the demise of others. One such is Sebastian (Casas), whom we first meet with his young daughter Anna (Howard). Except, we subsequently see Anna is dead, having been the victim of another seer. Witnessing this toppled Sebastian over the edge into the abyss, opening the door to seerdom himself. He meets a group heading for a supposed sanctuary in a mountaintop castle. Initially intending to sabotage them, encouraged by the spirit of Anna, the presence of another young girl, Sofia (Calva), and her protector, Claire (Campbell), causes Sebastian to waver in his “divine” mission.
It’s definitely a challenge to take someone through such an arc. Initially, he seems a loving father, then we discover he’s a madman, committed to triggering the deaths of anyone unfortunate enough to cross his path. Coming back from there is quite the ask, and whether you feel the film succeeds there, likely determines its overall impact. It did take some time for me to understand Sebastian’s actions; for a while it feels like the story is asking you to root for its villain. It is, until you eventually appreciate what he went through. Sebastian has been just as much a victim as anyone else, skewered by his grief. It’s only through coming to terms with it, that he can hope to emerge on the other side.
There’s a lot of that grief here, because it is the entities’ biggest weapon against humanity. They exploit it to get people to remove their blindfold, and if that fails, a seer can always pry your eyes open. It’s a chilling thought, though there does appear to be some kind of afterlife, softening the blow. But the biggest improvement for me was visually. The Pastors have taken what they learned from Days (there are some shots which feel like direct copies), added a Netflix-sized budget and really delivered an urban landscape from hell. I like the idea of getting different film-makers to add their own, local spin to this apocalypse. Hopefully, this will prove successful enough for Netflix to continue the franchise. Can Bird Box: Basingstoke be far away?