Director: Rodo Sayagues
Written by: Fede Álvarez & Rodo Sayagues
Starring: Stephen Lang, Brendan Sexton III, Madelyn Grace and
The first Don’t Breathe was created around the idea of making a horror film that was grounded and believable. At the time it received acclaim from critics and audiences, even if there weren’t many likable characters and it was unclear who we were supposed to be rooting for. Set eight years after the events of the first one Don’t Breathe 2 finds Norman (Stephen Lang, Manhunter) with an adopted daughter living in what feels like a dystopian nightmare.
Everything about this film looks run down and falling apart. The main settings are Norman’s house, the town centre near-by and a hotel where the bad guys are staying. They all look decrepit and like something out of The Last of Us. No matter how many gunshots are fired, or a house set on fire, there is no police in sight. A woman early on is killed violently in a van and left there and that doesn’t alarm anyone.
The biggest thing that the second one has over the first one is Norman’s daughter Phoenix, played by Madelyn Grace. Finally, there is someone to root for. Phoenix doesn’t know that Norman isn’t her real father – being told that he was since her house burned down and Norman found her on the street. Her entire life has been training to survive. She’s given tests by her adoptive father that will come in handy once a group of thugs break into their house one evening. There’s no way you can root for Norman after the turkey baster incident in the first film, but you can hope for Phoenix’s survival. Having a likable character in this one makes the entire film so much more tense and engaging.
The events of the film, especially in the later half once we get to the hotel, go beyond believable and enter a realm of stupidity. Without going into spoilers, the motive for the bad guys is just insane. It makes very little sense, other than to be shocking. It’s almost laughable. Combine that with the amount of moments that will leave you wondering why? Why doesn’t he just kill him, they killed the woman in the van? Why doesn’t he kill the dog? Why can he open that while the other man couldn’t? These questions and others are all answered by ‘the plot wouldn’t happen otherwise’. A lot of moments in a lot of films can be scrutinised in this way, but in Don’t Breathe 2 the moments are so quick and often that the whole plot is contrived to such an extent that it becomes dull. There’s no natural or grounded feeling like in the first one, it’s just plot points that must happen to continue the story.
Don’t Breathe 2 is very much like the first one in tone and style, it just goes a bit too far over the top. There are still tense moments and good scares, it’s just not going to become a modern classic.