The 2018 Netflix sci-fi film Bird Box, starring Sandra Bullock, relied on the audience’s imagination to create an atmosphere of horror. And it largely paid off.
While some criticised the fact that the film never showed the intimidating monsters who have brought upon a dystopian apocalypse on Earth, the mystery did its magic. The palpable terror the characters felt when faced with creatures who could turn one mad with one look was effective enough.
Five years have passed since Bird Box captivated Netflix audiences. Now its much-awaited sequel, Bird Box Barcelona, has finally shed some light on the mystery that haunted viewers in the original film.
Set in the same post-apocalyptic world, this spin-off introduces new characters who meet our protagonists Sébastian (Mario Casas) and his daughter Anna (Alejandra Howard). Like its predecessor, Bird Box Barcelona relies on a fast-paced narrative filled with twists and turns. The story unfurls as the creatures start invading, and one must navigate this new world blindfolded in order to survive.
“This idea that something as simple as opening your eyes can bring about your death is terrifying,” Mario Casas explained while speaking to The Upcoming.
Bird Box Barcelona explains why the monsters can’t be depicted on screen
In its quest to expand the original film’s universe, the sequel addresses the lingering question: why were the terrifying creatures impossible to reveal in the 2018 Sandra Bullock film?
One of the characters our protagonist Sébastian meets on his way, Octavio (Diego Calva), a physics major, theorises that these invading creatures might be quantum beings. As Octavio explains, these entities exist in multiple states simultaneously and defy the conventional laws of physics. As a result, the Observer Effect comes into play, which makes depicting them on screen impossible.
The Observer Effect, derived from quantum mechanics, posits that the act of observation alters the behaviour and appearance of a quantum entity. In the context of Bird Box Barcelona, this theory explains why different characters experience varied emotions upon encountering the creatures. Moreover, it justifies the monsters’ absence from the original film, as their quantum nature eludes human perception.
The film suggests that these monsters manipulate their appearance to embody the deepest fears, griefs, or insecurities of those who see them. The creatures’ lack of a fixed form adds an element of tragedy as well as terror to the Bird Box universe. Consequently, individuals either feel utterly helpless, killing themselves or becoming devoted followers of these nightmarish entities. For some, they appear as angels, for some aliens, and for some, their loved ones.
Similar cinematic monsters
The way the monsters mimic the voices of loved ones to tempt their prey to look at them harks back to the Jabberjays in the Hunger Games trilogy. The Jabberjays were exclusively male, and these avian ‘muttations’ or mutts, who could memorise and repeat entire human conversations, were created to spy on the enemies of the Capitol. And their visually illusive nature is akin to the colour of magic, Octarine, as described by Sir Terry Pratchett due to the whimsical and unpredictable nature of the magical forces at play in the Discworld universe.
But the creature they resemble the most are boggarts, the shape-shifting entities in the Harry Potter universe. Much like the Bird Box monsters, boggarts assume the appearance of their observer’s worst fears and like basilisks, only one glance at them can be fateful enough.
You can watch Bird Box and Bird Box Barcelona on Netflix and then read our ending explainer right after!