To say there was a certain amount of resistance when it came to the notion of Don’t Breathe 2 would be something of an understatement. The idea that the original film’s villain – Stephen Lang‘s Norman, aka “The Blind Man”, who emerged from Fede Alvarez‘s tense 2016 thriller Don’t Breathe as a vile shut-in with a penchant for forcibly impregnating young women with a turkey baster – could be remotely redeemed didn’t seem to go over well with the targeted audience. And rightfully so.
For this sequel, which feels more of a relation in name only, writer/director Rodo Sayagues (who served as a co-writer on the original) hasn’t forgiven Norman of his sins, more making him the lesser of two evils in justifying why we should remotely be behind him for the tense 99 minute running time. He’s a character we absolutely don’t want to cheer on, but in making Don’t Breathe 2‘s villains so incredibly morally foul there’s a certain glee in watching him violently dispose of them throughout; all I’ll say is one assailant meeting his demise via the impact of a shovel is incredibly satisfying.
On the subject of the film’s violent content, Sayagues has opted to indulge as much as possible in a bid to give the film its own personality separate from the first. Whilst Don’t Breathe had its share of gruesome moments, it relied on a more genuine sense of tension. Here, subtlety and suggestion have been discarded in favour of violent set-pieces and B-grade thrills. By no means does it improve the film, but it certainly allows it to lean into a genre aesthetic that can’t help but be entertaining if you’re willing to surrender to its unapologetically graphic nature.
Lang’s Blind Man is no hero but when up against Brendan Sexton III‘s gang leader and his team of violent-minded goons he’s the only saviour we and the young girl he’s claimed as his own (Madelyn Grace) have. The film has a surprisingly intricate sinister plan being hatched at its core, one that links the young girl and the gang leader to an organ harvest operation that further plays into how dreadful a temperament Sayagues’ characters truly hone.
Don’t Breathe 2 barely addresses The Blind Man’s actions from the first film, but it doesn’t quite let him off the hook either. It’s a murky area the film’s mentality decides to linger in, seemingly only making the villains worse to push the idea that centring a narrative around a kidnapping rapist is something you can endure if you meet people with far worse intentions. It doesn’t make Don’t Breathe 2 a pleasurable film from a moral point of view, but it helps in furthering its horrific mind-frame and surrendering to its schlocky, eye-gouging jollification.
TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Don’t Breathe 2 is screening in Australian cinemas from August 26th, 2021.