Review: Don’t Breathe 2

By Christian DiMartino

Don’t Breathe 2 is the entertaining but unconvincing sequel to Don’t Breathe, a successful, intense little thriller from 2016. That film revolved around a group of thugs who broke into the home of a blind elderly man (Stephen Lang), and certainly got more than they bargained for, in that he was a vicious veteran. That, and he was (spoiler, if you still haven’t seen it) keeping a woman prisoner so then he could impregnate her (said woman accidentally killed his daughter, so an eye for an eye… I suppose). With Don’t Breathe 2, things are taken in a different direction, but it’s also pretty much the same direction, in what turns out to be an interesting, if not absurd, mixed bag.

The different direction Don’t Breathe 2 goes in probably seems evident in the trailer, which, depending on your memory of the original, is pretty different. From the trailers, we’re led to believe that the blind man, named Norman (Lang, still a creepy, menacing presence) is the hero this time. Turns out, yes, that is what Don’t Breathe 2 is selling. It almost wants you to forget that this guy is a total creep, not to mention a murdering rapist, because he is taking care of a little girl. First off, this man doesn’t belong anywhere near children. And second, it’s kind of hard to just forget what he’s done. They do try their damndest though to sell us, and… eh. It’s not like Terminator 2 where the excuse was 100% valid.

I guess though, looking back at the first movie, he is sort of the hero… well, for the first half. We weren’t exactly rooting for the thugs who made the mistake of robbing the blind… well, blind. At the same time though, Lang truly is frightening, so we weren’t exactly rooting for them, but we were scared for them. The second half of the film though does anything but make you root for this guy, in a reveal that is shocking and frightening, and which leads to a moment that was unforgettably, comically gross. You know the scene, and it involves a turkey baster. And yes folks, Don’t Breathe 2 wants you to believe that the man who ended up swallowing his own seed is a hero. Uh huh.

For the first half of Don’t Breathe 2, while Norman as a savior didn’t fully convince, it can be said that the film works in the same way that its predecessor did, in terms of intensity. Some time after the home invasion, Norman has found peace and solace (which he obviously deserves) and is living a quiet life with his young “daughter,” Phoenix (Madelyn Grace, doing solid work). Norman sort of shelters her, but wants to get her prepared for the dangers of the outside world. Nothing prepares either one of them though for the suspicious arrival of a stranger named Raylan (Brendan Sexton III, seeming very much like Brad Douriff’s long lost son). We don’t know what Raylan wants with these two, but soon Raylan and his goons invade Norman’s home, and the previous hunter becomes the hunted.

That’s about all I’ll say, in terms of the plot. What I’ll tell you is that the first half of the film is good… enough, in that it does capture the quiet intensity the first film succeeded with. The second half of the film though is… not necessarily bad, but it seems increasingly silly and grisly, even for a movie that features a blind man effectively shooting four people in the blink of an eye. With the first film, we can go along with it, because not only do we know that he had special training, but he also knows his own house and his own surroundings. The second half of Don’t Breathe 2 takes place in an entirely different location (an interesting one, no less), but he is just as successful. How?

Don’t Breathe 2 pretty much always held my interest, and it is admirable for a sequel to at least TRY something new. Some of the dialogue is kind of goofy, but the film keeps you on your toes enough. When it all comes down to it though, it does sort of feel like the same movie all over again. The set-up is the same, and honestly the sequence of events in which the story is told is a pretty similar blueprint. Except the villain from the first one turns out to be the hero, and the heroes from the first one turn out to be the villains.

Don’t Breathe 2 isn’t necessarily a bad film, but rather, it’s not necessarily… well, necessary. I’m curious as to why the filmmakers, in the five years since the first film, deemed this character redeemable. Perhaps if the original never existed, Don’t Breathe 2 might have worked a little better. Alas, unlike Norman, I’ve seen everything he’s done, and he ain’t fooling me. For those of us who enjoyed the original though, there isn’t really a dull moment. The movie doesn’t exactly work, but I’ve passed the time in worse ways.

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