Don’t Breathe 2

by | Aug 25, 2021 | 0 comments

The sequel to the entertaining original is discouragingly uninspired

Despite many expensive films being the flagship franchises that most Hollywood studios want, it’s the horror genre that has delivered the most consistent and exhausting film series throughout history. We’ve had seven Nightmare on Elm Street films, nine Saw films, and ten of each Halloween and Friday the 13th films. The cheap budgets allow for the films to turn an easy profit with a modest audience turn-up. Thus, when there is an original horror film with a moderate success, you can bet studios will milk it until it crumbles in their hands.   

Don’t Breathe 2 (2021) is the sequel to Don’t Breathe (2016), which had a lethal blind man Norman (Stephen Lang) murder the burglars that break into his home. While the first film purported Norman as an antagonist, he turns into a hero in this second film. Eight years after the first film takes place, Norman has a young daughter, Phoenix (Madelyn Grace), who he protects obsessively. However, when organ traffickers get a glimpse of the young Phoenix, they decide to break into her and Norman’s house to kidnap her, without realizing the dangerous man they are provoking.

Don’t Breathe was a tight and original thriller, which took the home invasion concept and turned it around so that viewers rooted for the thieves instead. With the added gimmick of a blind killer, this made for a refreshing and entertaining flick. However, Don’t Breathe 2 seems to forget about the aspects that made the first film stand out. Norman is now our hero, making this a simple home invasion film, and the gimmickry of a blind man using his disability as an advantage is poorly and barely utilized this time around.

Fede Alvarez directed the first film and was able to use a patient and methodical manner in order to create tension and thrills. Alvarez’s producer and co-screenwriter from the first film, Rodo Sayagues, takes over the director’s chair and his lack of directing experience is noticeable. Sayagues has an impatience when creating moments of tension, so that he quickly resolves situations, resorts to gratuitous violence, and has the film move at a breakneck pace. This doesn’t allow the story to (ironically) breathe, so that character development is abandoned for expediency. This causes the film to fracture in two, the conflict of the home invasion is solved half-way through, and the supposed plot-twist you would expect at the end of the film is dropped there without the slightest care. This specifically makes the latter half of the film seem incongruous to the rest, going for worldbuilding and a supposed emotional payoff that the narrative hadn’t earned.

Sayagues does have an encouraging eye for visual aesthetic, though, with a red smoke scene near the end proving particularly eye-catching, and some creative (if slightly sloppy) tracking shots around the house when the kidnappers first break in. Sayagues also carries the great sound design from the first film here, allowing us to appreciate the detailed creaks of floorboards or sighs of a character that are likely to give them away to Norman. Sayagues has a strong cast in hand, with child actor Grace proving to be satisfactorily up to the task, and the always great Lange giving it his 100%.

Don’t Breathe 2 is a rather unnecessary sequel to a strong original film. Sayagues, taking over the directorial duties, isn’t able to spin much out of the scant material and you can almost see as the script desperately tries to come up with new ideas to lengthen the runtime and qualify this as a feature length film. Sadly, if the low budget of this film allows it to be profitable, we may just have many more of these sequels to go.   

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