Following the surprise critical and box office success of Don’t Breathe, a sequel was inevitable. Ghost House Entertainment and original director and writer Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead) took a little longer than expected to get the ball rolling. And the COVID-19 pandemic delayed its release by over a year. But Don’t Breathe 2 finally hit theaters last month. After subverting the home invasion thriller, Alvarez and co-writer, Rodo Sayagues, have again flipped the script. With Sayagues behind the camera this time, Don’t Breathe 2 turns its villain, The Blind Man, into the sequel’s ‘sort of’ hero. Unfortunately, critics have been less impressed with this switch.
After surviving his injuries and losing his home, ex-military veteran Norman Nordstrom has once again isolated himself. But after saving a young girl from a house fire, The Blind Man has a new adopted daughter. Still bitter and fearful, Nordstrom shields ‘Phoenix’ from the outside world. However, he can’t protect Phoenix from his – or her – past. When a vicious gang breaks into his home to kidnap the girl, The Blind Man unleashes his violent fury to save the one good thing he can claim.
Don’t Breathe 2 Trades Suspense For B-Movie Action Violence
When Ghost House Entertainment released Don’t Breathe, they didn’t just deliver a refreshingly suspenseful spin on the home invasion thriller. They also produced one of the decade’s best horror movies. Like most sequels, Don’t Breathe 2 mostly doubles down on its premise. Once again criminals are breaking into The Blind Man’s home. And yet again The Blind Man turns the tables on his attackers. This time around the ‘bad guys’ are more ‘bad’ and there are more of them to up the sequel’s body count. Not surprisingly, writer and director Rodo Sayagues dials up the violence as well. In fact, Don’t Breathe 2 ratchets it up to exploitation movie levels. Here, The Blind Man displays ‘Rambo-like’ invincibility.
If Don’t Breathe was tightly paced and very much edge-of-your-seat, the sequel forgoes its horror roots.
Where Don’t Breathe 2 doesn’t double-down, however, is on the scares and suspense. If Don’t Breathe was tightly paced and very much edge-of-your-seat, the sequel forgoes its horror roots. Whether this was intentional or indicative of Fede Alvarez not returning the director’s chair, Don’t Breathe 2 works better as an action movie. Yes, the sequel looks good. The production values are good and Sayagues knows how to capture the bloody action. But for such a relentless movie, there’s little in the way of tension.
Don’t Breathe 2 Asks Audiences To Perform Some Mental Gymnastics
Perhaps the sequel’s biggest divergence is its treatment of Stephen Lang’s (VFW) Nordstrom. Don’t forget, The Blind Man abducted and forcibly impregnated a woman in the first movie in the creepiest way possible. Yet for some strange reason, Alvarez and Sayagues expect audiences to buy into Nordstrom as an ‘anti-hero’. Even if The Blind Man had some sympathetic roots, this is a big leap that requires impressive selective memory. To his credit, Lang once again makes the character compelling. He’s excellent in the role but the character works better as a villain than a flawed protagonist.
…Alvarez and Sayagues expect audiences to buy into Nordstrom as an ‘anti-hero’.
Another problem for Don’t Breathe 2 is its anemic cast of supporting characters. The sequel really misses Jane Levy and Dylan Minnette (Open House). Aside from Madelyn Grace’s ‘Phoenix’, Don’t Breathe 2 offers no one with whom to empathize. There’s no likeable characters. And the movie’s villains are largely interchangeable ‘baddies’ who just up the movie’s body count. Not even Brendan Sexton III’s ‘Raylan’ registers much as the central antagonist. He’s vaguely menacing but mostly just forgettable.
Don’t Breathe 2 …
More action, more violence, fewer scares. Sometimes less is more, which Don’t Breathe 2 works overtime to illustrate. While its predecessor was a suspenseful subversion of home invasion thrillers, Don’t Breathe 2 is an ultra-violent action movie. And if Jane Levy and Dylan Minnette made for sympathetic protagonists, the sequel populates itself with unlikeable characters. Arguably, Alvarez and Sayagues’ baffling decision to turn ‘The Blind Man’ into something of anti-hero immediately sets the sequel on the wrong course. If there’s serious interest in a third movie, Alvarez et al need to make a huge course correction.