Don’t Breathe 2 (2021): Good Gore, Slipshod Sequel
Written by guest poster
Don’t Breathe 2 Review
Horror franchises can often be a hit or miss type of situation.
In the past, we’ve had movies turn into successful movie universes, linear down to the sequels built upon each previous movie’s storyline. Some of them have been great.
At the same time, just as many – if not more – were unnecessary. These ruined the fun for most. So, how about Don’t Breathe 2?
Depends how you look at it.
Don’t Breathe 2 managed to successfully continue the events from the first movie, but somewhat failed to capture the essence of the first movie.
Don’t Breathe 2 is the direct sequel to its namesake that came out in 2016. The 2021 sequel sees Rodo Sayagues return to director as well as Fede Álvarez, Sam Raimi, and Rob Tapert as producers of the movie. Stephen Lang also returns as the main character of the movie and is this time supported by Brendan Sexton III and Madelyn Grace.
The original Don’t Breathe garnered success and was widely considered one of the best horror movies of 2016. It had a fresh approach with Stephen Lang playing the titular baddy of the movie Norman Nordstrom (or The Blind Man). The story where the hunters become the hunted may be a familiar one, but the way it was executed in the first movie was brilliant as it left us gasping for air and holding our breaths in the movie theater.
We actually didn’t know that we needed a sequel to such a movie, but we got one. It may come with mixed results, but it is a great watch. It is very hard to duplicate the success of a first movie as a fresh story can quickly turn sour if not executed well.
Don’t Breathe 2 does very well as a sequel, but it misses out on delivering the same horror atmosphere that gave the original movie its uniquely terrifying flavor.
Don’t Breathe 2: Plot
The movie starts eight years after the events that transpired in the first movie. We soon learn that Norman Nordstrom is living a peaceful life with his dog Shadow and an 11-year old daughter that he calls Phoenix. He rescued Phoenix from a fire, in which her parents died, and is now protecting her and teaching her survival skills that he learned as a Navy Seal.
But Phoenix starts growing weary of a sheltered life imposed on her by Norman and begins rebelling as she wants to go to school and meet new friends. While running an errand with her friend Hernandez, Phoenix runs into a shady character in a public bathroom who later follows them home.
The person from the bathroom, which we later learn is called Raylan, turns out to be a meth dealer. Raylan breaks into Norman’s house with his gang after killing both Hernandez and Shadow. In course of events that mirror the break-in scene from the first movie, the gangsters manage to overpower Norman and take Phoenix away after setting the house on fire.
Raylan reveals to Phoenix that she is his daughter and her real name is Tara. He then introduces her to her mother, who is very sick, as she is dying from organ poisoning caused by the explosion of their meth lab.
The explosion that also caused their house to burn down. However, it turns out that Phoenix’s, or Tara’s, parents only wanted her for her heart, as her mother badly needs a transplant.
During the operation, Norman shows up, and in a scuffle, kills the surgeon while a stray bullet kills Phoenix’s mom. Norman fights Raylan and eventually defeats him by gouging out his eyes. Raylan manages to get a final stab at Norman, which leaves him badly wounded.
Norman tries to apologize to Phoenix with his last breath by confessing what a bad person he actually is, and that he stole her from her family after the fire. As Norman succumbs to his wounds, Phoenix forgives him and lets him die in peace.
Phoenix leaves and heads off to a children’s home where she meets a group of children and introduces herself by the name Norman gave her, Phoenix, and not Tara.
Did we Really Need a Sequel to Don’t Breathe?
The second movie does a classic Terminator 2 trope where they turn the bad guy into a hero of the movie. We already know that Norman Nordstrom is a very bad man. He is a killer and a rapist and the first movie represented him as a frightful killing force much similar to Halloween’s Michael Myers or Jason from the Friday the 13th franchise.
The first thing that the movie does is to humanize the character by giving him a child. This is where we are supposed to start caring for the Blind Man. We are supposed to think that he is not such a bad person after all. They also make him more human by giving him a voice, as he speaks and has significantly more lines of dialogue than the first movie, as well as making him physically vulnerable, being that he gets his ass kicked an awful lot in this one.
The atmosphere of the sequel is also very different. What made the first movie so suspenseful to watch is missing in this one. They did have a similar break-in where Norman was supposed to kill everyone, but the situation is a lot less frightening than the scenes from the first movie. Actually, the break-in part was probably one of the best parts of the movie, but it later shifts to a completely different spectrum that throws things off balance.
However, we have to give it to the effects team. This movie is much more gruesome and gory than the first one. There are quite a lot of bloody death scenes as Norman finds more violent ways to dispose of his opponents. As far as the gore part goes, the movie gets a ten.
Comparisons: Don’t Breathe 1 vs Don’t Breathe 2
Sequels are tough. In the case of Don’t Breathe, some things worked, while others didn’t.
The original movie was a masterpiece as the idea of being trapped in a house with a mad man is frightening enough. Let alone the fact that you can’t make a sound nor breathe if you want to come out of there alive. The thrill and the atmosphere are what the original movie did really well.
The writers probably didn’t want to use the same twist again and went the other direction as they tried to familiarize Norman a bit with the audience. He is not just the Blind Man who hunts by sound and rapes, he has a soft side that is tied to his dead daughter whom he tries to replace with Phoenix. But the caring aspect is lost on us as it is hard to get the audience to root for a sexual assaulter. He does try to appease himself at the end, as he does everything he can to rescue Phoenix. Her love towards him is what saves him as he is able to die peacefully.
Still, the second part is a completely different movie from the first. It tries to expand the character and show that he can be three-dimensional, but I don’t think that making him likable is the right way to go. Adding the daughter was a nice touch, but I think that she in particular could have been used a lot better than just being the thingamajig that everyone is looking for.
Don’t Breathe 2 is not a bad movie. Sure, watch it. But don’t expect to relive Don’t Breathe 1 all over again.
How Does the Acting Hold Up?
Good acting here.
Both the first and the second Don’t Breathe delivered exceptional performances. Stephen Lang is absolutely magnificent in the role of Norman Nordstrom, aka the Blind Man. He is as horrific as ever. Even the few words of dialogue that he delivers in this movie with his husky, old man voice, are enough to send chills down your spine.
Stephen Lang is an exceptional actor and has made the role of the Blind Man his own. I absolutely can’t imagine anyone else chopping and fending off attackers with his eyes closed. Even though the movie failed to make the character likable as a hero, Lang greatly contributed to making the Blind Man a feared villain.
Also, we have to give props to young Madelyn Grace who was exceptional as Phoenix/Tara. We legitimately felt scared for her as she showed us that she can be vulnerable and strong at the same time. Even though she only has a few roles on her IMDB record, she acts as a real veteran. We just might be seeing her in other roles quite soon.
Finally, Brendan Sexton III playing the supporting role of Raylan was also good as a gangster, meth dealer. He actually plays the main villain of the movie. Raylan is not as scary as Norman from the first movie is, but managed to play his role quite well. The line of the movie when Norman gauges Raylan’s eyes out by saying “Now you’ll see what I see” is definitely a nod to passing the villain mantle to Raylan. Metaphorically speaking, by blinding Raylan, he becomes our main baddy of the movie and in a real villain fashion comes back for a final stab, quite literally, to deliver the final blow that (presumably) kills Norman.
Are We Ever Going to see a Third Don’t Breathe Movie?
Will there be a Don’t Breathe 3?
In a world where movie franchises are a must, it seems that the Don’t Breathe could also become one. I hope that this doesn’t mean going down the path of reducing quality as most horror franchises end up being a mockery of themselves as new sequels are added. Props to those that kept things fresh and brought new scares with each new movie.
Don’t Breathe 2 ended with an after-credits scene where we see a dog licking Norman’s dead hand lying in a pool of blood. Right as we were expecting it to twitch, the black screen ends the movie and leaves us coping for a sequel.
In truth, I don’t think that we need another sequel. There aren’t many ways in which the character can go except turning him bad again. But that would undermine the plot of this movie entirely.
For now, there aren’t any talks of a sequel being made. The writers did leave room for one with the after-credits scene, but it is a thin one at best. In my opinion, it was shoehorned in for the possibility of making more money somewhere down the line.
I guess the success of this movie will dictate the possibility of a third one. I may be a bit old-fashioned, but I miss the time of simple stand-alone movies as I think that making everything a franchise usually means a decrease in quality.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching Don’t Breathe 2. It is a step down in quality, but definitely worth watching. The movie was able to continue the story from the first movie and also upped the horror effect to 11. But the movie wasn’t able to keep the claustrophobic atmosphere of the first one. Sometimes it is better when we keep things small. Keeping everything in a house was much more effective, particularly scared-wise, than letting Nordstrom out of it. He is much more effective and scary when he is in his own element, his house.
Adding a daughter was an interesting concept. But whenever writers try to show the human side of a killer they fall into a trap that many others have already ended up in. The kidnapped daughter element was great, but I feel that there were other ways they could have used her.
But we did get a few memorable lines of dialogue that we are going to repeat long after leaving the theatre. Also, I just not might be getting in any dark parts of unknown houses any time soon and have thoroughly developed a fear of blind, old men that seem defenseless on first glance.