Back in 2016 director Fede Álvarez released what was considered one of the best horror movies of the year in “Don’t Breather”, a home invasion movie that turned the criminal invaders into victims thanks to a badass blind man with a dark evil secret of his own. It was atmospheric, suspenseful and terrifying in all the right ways so naturally a sequel was green lit. This time however Álvarez merely served as a writer and producer while Rodo Sayagues, who helped Álvarez write “Don’t Breathe” as well as the director’s excellent reboot of “Evil Dead” from 2013, took the director’s chair for the first time while also helping pen the screenplay. A sequel to “Don’t Breathe” felt like it had interesting potential seeing as the first movie opened the door for the Blind Man and final girl Rocky to meet once more. Sadly, that is not the case as this movie puts the focus on the Blind Man eight years after the first film as he raises an adopted daughter only to find himself having to rescue her from a group of kidnappers who underestimate his capabilities. A bit more revenge thriller than horror, “Don’t Breathe 2” is certainly brutal and maintain the Blind Man’s badass nature but fails to successfully build off of its successors better elements while also asking us to root for a man we honestly shouldn’t be asked to sympathize with.
“Don’t Breathe 2” sees Stephen Lang return as Normal Nordstrom, aka the Blind Man, who now lives in a secluded home with his adopted daughter Phoenix played by Madelyn Grace. However, when the past comes back to haunt both of them Nordstrom must rekindle his Navy Seal training and put his skills to the test once more in spite of his inability to see. Right away it’s important to note that while “Don’t Breathe 2” can be considered a horror picture due to the sheer brutality of the kills, it’s much more of a thriller asking as Nordstrom takes revenge on kidnappers who invade his home. Now if you haven’t seen the first movie you might think this is fine, but when you remember that in the previous film we discovered that Nordstrom had kidnapped a woman who had killed his daughter in a car accident and artificially inseminated her keeping her chained in the basement through her pregnancy term you begin to see how problematic the idea of asking viewers to root for this man really is. Basically, what Fede Álvarez and Rodo Sayagues did was they provided viewers with even more despicable people for the Blind Man to take on hoping that by presenting us with a much clearer evil we might be willing to forgive the Blind Man for his sins…but it doesn’t work like that. Putting it bluntly, this whole experience felt extremely uncomfortable for me. Yeah, the action is cool and Stephen Lang is still an awesome badass in the role, but I just didn’t like that we were meant to relate to a man who in just the previous film we discovered had committed extremely heinous crimes that, especially in todays social climate, are unforgivable regardless of whether there are worse people in this world.
So with that just concept alone didn’t work for me. However, my dislike of this movie goes even farther. “Don’t Breathe 2” also strips away a lot of the charm of the previous movie feeling much more like a by-the-books home invasion turned revenge thriller than the previous film’s successful attempt to subvert the situation. The first movie was scary because it was creepy to imagine being in the shoes of these young home invaders, several of which we’re meant o believe aren’t deserving of their fate, having to deal with a man whose abilities could rival Marvel’s Daredevil. The idea of a simple breath giving you away added to the suspense and once we found out that the Blind Man wasn’t really all that good of a person himself it made things even more terrifying. You saw how far he was willing to go and it made his motivations much more complex than just protecting his house. He was also protecting a secret. In this movie he’s basically just your typical action movie badass with special skills who ruthlessly kills without mercy, albeit in entertaining and creative fashion. Hell, half the time you barely even remember he’s blind because he’s so capable. I really felt like a lot of the uniqueness was stripped away with this film as it ends up feeling more like a token sequel than an inspired continuation of an overarching narrative. It would have been so much better to see Rocky and the Blind Man meet up again, maybe with Rocky attempting to expose the Blind Man’s truth or even having Rocky coming back to free Phoenix knowing the Blind Man’s past thus making the Blind Man much more like the antagonist he was in the previous entry. I get that maybe Jane Levy didn’t want to return for the picture but regardless there were better ways to continue this story and, honesty, what the filmmakers tried to do feels in very poor taste to me not to mention it really didn’t engage me like the previous movie did. The whole experience just didn’t work for me and as fun as it was to see the carnage that unfolded through the Blind Man’s hands when that and the Blind Man’s love of dogs and a last second confession of sins are the only credible forms of substance this movie offers I consider it to be a huge failure.
“Don’t Breathe 2” is the definition of wasted potential in a sequel. The first film was so good, taking full advantage of its concept and providing us with a rare group of characters that honestly were all bad people in their own way while also shocking us with a horrifying twist reveal. It was terrifying and unique, but its follow-up feels like a forced continuation at best reverting to a more traditional home invasion narrative while attempting to turn who is even by his own admission in the film and unforgivable rapist into a flawed anti-hero. To their credit the actors do a decent job and even the villains were kind of fun. The kills are creative and provide some genuine entertainment often taking advantage of the Blind Man’s handicap…but that still doesn’t forgive the fact that this doesn’t hold a candle to its predecessor. I’m used to being underwhelmed by follow-ups to good horror movies but not like this. This wasn’t just bland and boring, this was downright disappointing. My advice, skip the sequel. Revisit the first film. That is truly an example of what Fede Álvarez and Rodo Sayagues are capable of because we as fans of the original movie certainly deserved better.