Don’t Breathe 2 Synopsis: The Blind Man has been hiding out for several years in an isolated cabin and has taken in and raised a young girl orphaned from a devastating house fire. Their quiet life is shattered when a group of criminals kidnaps the girl, forcing the Blind Man to leave his haven to save her.
Sequels typically strike while the iron is hot for their successful brand, but others clunkily stagger towards their eventual release. Don’t Breathe 2 is a prisoner of this conundrum, following up its critically and commercially prosperous predecessor five years after the fact (2016 feels like a lifetime ago, I literally started and completed a Bachelor’s Degree in that time).
Featuring a new perspective and a first-time director (Don’t Breathe helmer Fede Alvarez switches to a producer/writer role), Don’t Breathe 2 attempts to further the original’s balance of thrills and nihilistic dread. The results are painfully misguided in nearly every facet.
Don’t Breathe received universal acclaim upon release, but Avalrez’s swift feature lost me within its gratuitous edge. The film threw shocking revelations at audiences without ever wrestling with the human ramifications, relying more on funhouse thrills to push along its inconsistent narrative. If Don’t Breathe was just all right, Don’t Breathe 2 feels like a tremendous step backward – and the film essentially makes that error from jump street.
The original’s vile antagonist Norman takes the protagonist seat as he manages a creepily protective relationship with his so-called daughter. Jane Levy’s performance in the original at least built a foundation of empathy with audiences, but Norman’s grotesque and underwritten backstory makes him a bland creep to follow. I credit Stephen Lang for imbuing Norman with physicality and presence. It just doesn’t mask the character’s flat sense of misery. The film’s introductory act introduces painfully inert melodrama between Norman and his daughter, never developing the naturalistic core that kept audiences invested in the original.
Once the carnage begins, it’s more of the same over-the-top violence. New helmer Rodo Sayagues admirably pulls from gritty home invasion thrillers of yesteryear, sinking his teeth into bloody kills and swift camera movements to display the claustrophobic struggle. While the execution is commendably visceral, the violence’s brooding brutality largely left me cold. Most horror setpieces rely on uncomfortably predatory dynamics to cause tension, cheaply throwing helpless characters in distress as mere pawns. Considering both films are severely self-serious, the lack of meaningful steaks drastically detracts from any investment. All the brutal combat is hilariously fictitious, turning Norman’s blinds state into superpowers that would make Daredevil blush.
As the narrative drifts down twisted detours, Don’t Breathe 2 justifies no reason to exist. The original felt like a sincere twist on the home invasion concept, turning the poverty-ridden bandits into earnest losers trying to survive against an unlikely source of evil. Alvarez and Sayagues’ screenplay take audiences to grotesque places that linger with a pungent mean-spiritedness. I expect some audiences to enjoy the film’s brand of unrelenting dreariness, but there isn’t enough gravity or creativity to justify the shock factor for me.
Don’t Breathe 2 left me bewildered with its dour brand of horror. Even fans of the original will recognize this poorly conceived effort as a downgrade from its predecessor.
Don’t Breathe 2 is now playing in theaters nationwide.
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