Don’t Breathe was a surprising mix of horror and novelty, which turned a home into a death trap and a frail old man into something darker. It was bold and new. Don’t Breathe 2 however is not new and in many ways, it isn’t bold but there are some moments of lovingly detailed action here buried beneath a story that feels beneath what came before. The sequel finds Norman (returning star Stephen Lang) caring for Phoenix (Madelyn Grace), a young girl who he is raising as his daughter in a small town until once again, a group of men break into his house. While it all feels fairly mundane in its plotting, mainly because we saw it all 5 years ago, returning writer and now director Rodo Sayagues uses extended sequences and the claustrophobia of Norman’s house to entertaining effect. It is in the confusing legacy of the first film that this one falters though.
The move from villain to anti-hero here feels painfully forced as we are supposed to sympathise with Norman by seeing him through Phoenix’s eyes and this comes down to a realisation that in the end, there will always be someone worse than him. This doesn’t so much paint him in a more pleasant light but tarnishes the whole feature by filling it with detestable characters you wouldn’t care get put inside an industrial blender, and then, they do. For a film trying to dull the sharp edges of a man in need of redemption, his lust for blood here does the exact opposite, meaning that half the film doesn’t pass muster. When the story stays with Norman and Phoenix it feels at least functional, when it jarringly swaps perspectives halfway through to match up with its predecessor it all falls apart. While it is hard to disagree that Sayagues is a visual director, one adept at using space, there is a severe lack of direction in Norman’s latest chapter in terms of the story it tells.