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Can Bird Box Barcelona really recapture Netflix’s Bird Box magic?

This time Netflix is betting on its company players and global reach rather than the star power of Sandra Bullock

Gonzalo de Castro, Georgina Campbell, Mario Casas, Naila Schuberth in Netflix’s Bird Box Barcelona Photo: Andrea Resmini/Netflix
Austen Goslin (he/him) is an entertainment editor. He writes about the latest TV shows and movies, and particularly loves all things horror.

Netflix is bringing back its Bird Box franchise. The series that helped cement the streamer’s original movies as important pop culture touchstones is back with the new trailer for Bird Box Barcelona. But while the first movie was an unprecedented hit, there’s no guarantee Netflix can recapture that same energy for a sequel.

In many ways, Bird Box kicked off the streaming era as we know it. The movie’s release in 2018 received middling reviews, but a ton of interest from Netflix subscribers and an avalanche of memes helped propel the Sandra Bullock movie to becoming the most watched Netflix original movie ever — and it’s still in the top three. More than arguably any other movie before it, it proved a streaming service’s original movie could be a massive hit.

For those who don’t remember (statistically speaking, the odds are pretty good you watched this movie), Bird Box follows Malorie (Bullock), a woman living in a post-apocalyptic world where strange creatures cause anyone who sees them to lose their minds and attempt to die in the most immediately available way possible — or in some cases, try to make other people look at the creatures instead.

It’s exactly the kind of premise that lent itself to massive twists as well as some genuinely creepy moments — though not necessarily a good movie. But director Susanne Bier managed to keep tension high enough to both grab viewers early and keep them from getting too distracted; in other words, Netflix’s winning combo.

The consistent excitement helped the movie generate impressive word of mouth buzz after its December 2018 release and let it grow throughout January 2019 into a viral sensation. Of course, it was also helped by a mountain of memes that largely circulated on Facebook — because 2019 was bleaker than you remember it.

But that perfect alchemy of virality, suspense, and general spookiness isn’t easy to replicate. And it’s hard to imagine this year’s horror sequel hitting as hard as its predecessor, especially as Netflix’s latest hits continue to be driven by massive stars, A-list ensembles, or lots and lots of action. With all that skepticism in mind, however, Netflix is still being clever with how it positions Bird Box Barcelona.

One of the major changes in Netflix over the last five years is the increasingly international nature of its content and audience. As the streaming service expands around the globe, the success of shows like Squid Game, Elite, and Money Heist consistently prove that Netflix’s increasingly global audience loves shows from all around the world. As a result, this production feels a little more international, heading to Spain for its setting, and casting quite a few non-English actors in major roles.

Mario Casas, Gonzalo de Castro, and Lola Duenas wearing blindfolds in Netflix’s Bird Box Barcelona Photo: Andrea Resmini/Netflix

That being said, Barcelona is missing the notable star-power of the original; there’s no Sandra Bullock to pull people in this time. Instead, it has the excellent Georgina Campbell (Barbarian), and a host of actors with at least one Netflix credit under their belt already like Diego Calva (Babylon, Narcos: Mexico), Michelle Jenner (The Girls at the Back), and Mario Casas (The Innocent). Even the movie’s directors, the the Barcelona-born duo David and Alex Pastor, worked with Netflix as directors and writers of the 2020 movie The Occupant.

While that is quite a bit of Netflix talent, it’s not quite clear if Netflix talent is enough to attract and audience to a Netflix movie. And with streaming now suffering from a post-boom slowdown, it’s just not clear that Netflix can really pull off a second Bird Box.

Bird Box Barcelona is set for release on July 14.

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