Released: 12th August
Seen: 11th November
The 2016 film Don’t Breathe was one of the best horror films of the 2010s, certainly one of the most fascinating. It was dark, unapologetically so, with a creative set of visuals (That I have talked about in a previous article) and a truly fascinating antagonist in the form of The Blind Man. It was a film that let every character live in the grey area, no one was perfectly good and no one was perfectly evil. It was a fascinating little film that really pushed some buttons… so the sequel decides to play it safe and just turn The Blind Man into a hero, because we can’t have nice things.
Don’t Breathe 2 picks up 8 years after the first film where The Blind Man, AKA Norman Nordstrom (Stephen Lang) is living a quiet life with his dog and daughter Phoenix (Madelyn Grace). Things are going fairly well until Phoenix is spotted by a gang who want to kidnap her so they break into her home in the middle of the night. What follows is a lot of mayhem, some really unambiguously bad men getting killed, the shocking past of Phoenix and Norman being revealed and even a heart transplant surgery. It’s all trying so hard to be so extreme and none of it works.
The magic trick of the first Don’t Breathe is that you’re meant to believe that Norman is this weak innocent blind guy who is falling victim to a couple of home invaders (who are only robbing him because they have problems of their own) and then it’s revealed that he’s actually pretty damn good at defending himself and he also kidnapped and impregnated a woman who killed his child. You think he’s meant to be the innocent, turns out he might actually be a worse human being than those who are harming him. That’s why Don’t Breathe is such a good movie, it forces you to change who you root for every couple of minutes and keeps you on your toes. This movie? Yeah, Norman’s the hero from start to finish and there is no ambiguity about it.
While the characters of the first film had nuance and depth, no one has that here. The guys breaking in might as well be twirling moustaches and giving out maniacal laughs because they’re so blatantly evil, meanwhile our pair of leads need new halos because they’re precious angels who only do what needs to be done and it’s not anywhere near as interesting. It rips the teeth out of this franchise and offers nothing in return. Don’t Breathe 2 is less shocking than the last by a country mile since all that the film can really pull is have Phoenix learn the information that all of us got from the first movie… that’s not compelling.
None of the bad guys are even that interesting, they’re just generic gang members who have no reason to be there other than “The script demands bodies for a higher body count”. The only one with a remotely interesting reason to be there is Raylan (Brendan Sexton III), whose reason for being there is Don’t Breathe 2 attempt at a third act reveal that isn’t that interesting or even that shocking. It’s just there to aid in the franchises attempt to rehabilitate Norman and that’s not something that we want.
Sure, horror franchises have a long history of getting the audience to love the bad guy but they did it while keeping the villain consistent. This is just a completely different character to what we saw in the first one, the only similarities being blindness and being played by Stephen Lang (who still delivers a great performance). It’s just not the same character, it’s not even a character that feels related to what we saw last time. He’s not as brilliant, he hasn’t planned out every possible route around the house, he never has the upper hand. He’s not the guy who was so terrifying in the original film, he’s just kind of bland.
Don’t Breathe 2 suffers from just being kind of bland, despite its best efforts. There are maybe half a dozen extra characters in this film, none of them matter or are even that interesting. The few who really matter to the plot are so basic that it’s impossible to care for any of them. The entire plot of Don’t Breathe 2 is not even that interesting, nothing about this film has the same special charm that the first film had… almost like it was a really bad idea to make a sequel to Don’t Breathe because Don’t Breathe was a unique experience that didn’t really need a follow up.
Don’t Breathe 2 is a sequel that didn’t need to exist. It adds nothing to the central character, if anything it takes away some of his mystique and intrigue. The only positive thing I can say about this film is that it’s so forgettable that in about a year I won’t even know it exists and it won’t tarnish the memories of the first film. Just stick to the first Don’t Breathe, you don’t need a second breath.