- Hamish Hart
Don't Breathe 2 (2021) Review
Updated: Oct 18, 2021
FIVE YEARS ago, Don't Breathe was released and instantly became one of my favourite films ever made thanks to its captivating cinematography, horrifying moments and effective character construction. Five years later, Don't Breathe 2 was announced and was met with scepticism from fans of the original, fearing it wouldn't live up to the high standards set by its predecessor. But with many cast members not returning for the sequel and a new director at the helm, do these changes make the film frightening in all the right or wrong ways?
Set eight years after the initial home invasion, Don't Breathe 2 focuses on antagonist Norman Nordstrom (Stephen Lang) who now lives in solace alongside his daughter Phoenix (Madelyn Grace) in hopes of escaping his undisclosed sins showcased in the original. However, history can only be cleansed for so long as a group of mercenaries begin to invade the blind man's home, causing Norman to physically and mentally protect Phoenix from the secrets he's kept from her.
If I'm being completely honest, as much as I loved the 2016 film, I don't feel a sequel was necessary. Despite there being potential for story continuation, I was satisfied with the ending as many questions such as "what happened to Rocky and Diddy?" were better left unanswered. Don't Breathe 2, instead of focusing on the original's empathetic characters, highlights Norman and turns him into a sympathetic anti-hero; a role which just doesn't work. As a standalone movie, this character adjustment is fine, but considering the horrific, unforgiveable acts he did in the original, Norman Nordstrom simply cannot be identified as a benevolent man who cares about others despite the lengths he goes to protect young Phoenix.
Inferior character directing aside, Don't Breathe 2 still maintains the same outstanding production elements which made Fede Alvarez's original thriller a cult horror classic. Stephen Lang's character being blind lends the film to many creative themes and situations, including Norman utilising water to follow the footsteps of his foes, and implanting a sound device on someone so he may hear which direction they take. These components shape the entire point of both films, but I feel it was better executed in the 2016 feature. This is primarily due to the differing tones each film possess as Don't Breathe 1 feels more subtle, rarely showcasing over-the-top gun fire, maintaining spine-chilling tension throughout while Don't Breathe 2 does the opposite, embracing dynamic and flashy action over more grounded stealth; a move, while bold and serviceable, failed to have the same impact as the original.
Criticism of Don't Breathe 2 may appear unfair and partial, but when the film is a follow-up to one of my favourite films of all-time, comparison becomes necessary as any good sequel should be as good, if not better, than its predecessor. And sadly, Don't Breathe 2 cannot be considered a "good sequel".
The film has many positives leaning in its favour such as elegant cinematography and stealth sequences which showcases the character's growth and skills expertly, but as a sequel to what I consider the magnum opus of modern horror, Don't Breathe 2 flounders, standing as a firm reminder that sequels must be made with the intent of creating a superior product which builds upon pre-existing elements. As a standalone movie it is more than serviceable and is effective at creating gory, blood-curling moments, but will leave fans of the original wanting much, much more.