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Don't Breathe 2
Sony Pictures // R // August 13, 2021
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Comicbook]
When the first Don't Breathe hit theaters back in 2016, it succeeded thanks to its relentless tension. While it isn't the perfect movie, it did manage to put me on the edge of my seat with plenty of nail-biting moments. The perspective is set on the intruders, as they break into the home of a blind man to steal from him, but soon realize that he's the last person that they should be stealing from. While a sequel didn't feel entirely necessary, the feature was successful enough at the box office to warrant the studio to invest in a follow-up installment.
The plot in Don't Breathe 2 places the blind man from the first film at the center of the narrative, who is named Norman Nordstrom (Stephen Lang). Set years after the previous movie, Norman now lives a relatively quiet life with a young girl named Phoenix (Madelyn Grace). She knows very little of her past and wants to live a normal life, but Norman is terrified of potentially losing her. So, he keeps her in his remote home to keep her hidden and safe. Their quiet life comes crashing down when a group of invaders seek to break into their home to steal Phoenix.
The first thought that I had going into the sequel is, "How many times is this guy's house going to get broken into?" Centering a sequel around the antagonist from the previous movie is an intriguing shakeup in perspective. While the movie never gets too in-depth with his backstory, it gives enough for the viewer to have an idea of what he has been through and what he has put others through. While the movie teases at some potential paths for the character to go down, we never get more than a peek. At the movie's core, this is a narrative about a father-daughter relationship. It's a motif that is repeated over the course of the movie. However, aside of the reason that Phoenix is a young girl, there's no real reason that the audience is given to root for the lead characters.
The best part of Don't Breathe is the way that it manages to rack up the tension to a ten over the course of its runtime. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for its sequel. When the intruders first break into the home, the movie certainly delivers on a similar type of tension from the original movie. However, as the movie pushes along, it becomes less of a horror/thriller and more of an action/thriller. It feels less like there's life-threatening danger around every corner and more like an ultra-graphic version of Taken. While the previous installment certainly has its ridiculous moments, Don't Breathe 2 has an uneven tone that occasionally points at unintentional comedy, which sticks out like a sore thumb.
While Fede Alvarez directed and co-wrote Don't Breathe, he only returned as a producer and co-writer on the sequel. He handed the movie off to his co-writer, Rodo Sayagues, who is making his directorial debut. He captures some unique action set pieces that further utilize Norman's other senses, such as touch and hearing. Sayagues certainly doesn't hold back on the violence. One character in particular gets the short end of the stick, as he's constantly getting stabbed and slashed in all types of ways. Running at only 1 hour and 38 minutes, the movie isn't a long commitment. The movie never gets dull and it moves at a brisk pace.
The business of making sequels can be a tricky one. In the case of the Don't Breathe universe, it went with a new director and explores a narrative path that transforms an antagonist into an anti-hero killing machine. While the audience is meant to root for the intruders in the previous movie, they're intended to be rooting for the previous villain now. This doesn't really work given what we already know about him. Additionally, the sequel focuses a lot on the big action scenes and it abandons the insane tension that the previous movie instilled. While it's clear that the sequel is meant to provide more context and background to Norman, it's all pretty surface level. The strong bloody violence is all intact and the movie is entertaining over the course of its runtime. Don't Breathe 2 won't have you holding your breath like the last one did.