‘Don’t Breathe 2’ Ends up a Disappointing Follow up That no One Asked For

A still from 'Don't Breathe 2'. Norman (Stephen Lang) is shown in a mid shot, centre frame, in profile. He is an older man in his 50s/60s, with grey hair and beard wearing a vest. He holds a hammer in his right hand and has his left outstretched. His eyes are closed and the image is shrouded in a blue light, it is difficult to tell where he is.
Sony Pictures Entertainment

The sequel to intense and gritty horror thriller Don’t Breathe bites off far more than it can chew as the blind man, Norman Nordstorm (Stephen Lang), returns 8 years later with a new house, the same dog, and a new ‘daughter’. Directed and co- written by Rodo Sayagues, written by Fede Alvarez (director of the first film) and produced by Sam Raimi, Don’t Breathe 2 is a ridiculous failed attempt to recreate what the original did so well… tension.

Sadly, there is no return of beloved anti-heroine Rocky (Jane Levy) as the plot instead centres on Phoenix (Madelyn Grace), a young girl Norman abducted when she was a child as she was escaping from a house fire. Naturally, a different group of fools attempt to break into Norman’s house, this time looking for something other than cash. The film attempts to redeem the blind man through his relationship with Phoenix, as if we’re supposed to ignore the reasons why he kidnapped her, or that he kidnapped her in the first place. Rather than commit properly to this plot line, Phoenix is rendered pointless for most of the film, only existing to provide emotional subtext to pretty much every adult featured.

Without Levy the franchise falls apart. Choosing to focus solely on the blind man rather than feature the return of the original’s final girl has taken Don’t Breathe 2 into a shallow and simplistic world of redemption by way of toxic masculinity and death. Instead of begging the audience to question if Norman is even worthy of redemption, the film assumes we will naturally side with him over the course of the 1 hour 38 minute run time. This assumption is one of the major reasons the film falls apart as the premise alone seems like it would have been better suited for a prequel, rather than a direct sequel. If the events of the original film are not enough to make this man question his motives and actions, then it is highly unlikely the quest of him kidnapping and ‘training’ a young girl for eight years would lead to anything other than further entitlement and cruelty. Even as the film signals to showcasing villains as capable of ‘love’, it ignores the morality established by the original film, and by Norman himself. Using tactics such as a character’s attitude and treatment towards animals to dictate their worth when up against a known serial killer, abductor, and rapist, seems dense and messy.

The most notable feature of the original Don’t Breathe is the constant twisting and turning of morality which serves for some intense and sympathetic scenes. Don’t Breathe 2 nosedives into cheap morality, almost forgetting what the original successfully achieved by creating complex characters and developing them during the heat of the moment. The first film seduces us into rooting for Norman entirely for the first two acts, failing to do so in the sequel as there is no desire or real reason to root for him. Don’t Breathe 2 showcases how not to redeem a villain by attempting to justify the blind man’s actions through even more abduction, violence, and murder.

With the return of Pedro Luque as cinematographer, the sequel adopts the same soft glow of the original, resulting in a brutally beautiful aesthetic. This, coupled with scenes of barbarous violence and an eye gouge that’ll knock your socks off, Don’t Breathe 2 makes for some great entertainment in parts.  If you’re looking for a no-thoughts-head-empty violent time, this is the film for you. However, if you’re looking for an extreme sequel to the absolute riot that was the original; then this is sure to disappoint.

Don’t Breathe 2 is out in cinemas now

by Kelsie Dickinson

Kelsie (she/her) is a super gay masters student at The University of Glasgow. She loves slashers, but hates capitalism. Her favourite films are It Follows, Midsommar, Lost In Translation and Ghost World. Find her on Twitter.

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