Don't Breathe 2 (2021)
"Don't Breathe 2" stars Stephen Lang, Brendan Sexton III, Madelyn Grace, Adam Young, Bobby Schofield, and Rocci Williams. Released on August 13, 2021, the film has "The Blind Man" rescuing a young girl from a group of criminals.
The film featured the directorial debut of Rodo Sayagues, who wrote screenplays for films like "El Cojonudo", "Ataque de Panico", and 2013's "Evil Dead". It is a sequel to the 2016 film, "Don't Breathe". He may be blind, but he's also very, very deadly. Five years ago, filmmaker Fede Álvarez delivered an original horror film that showed just how savage a blind man could be. Now, he's bringing that dangerous man back for another killing spree with the help of his fellow screenwriter Rodo Sayagues. While Álvarez isn't back to direct this sequel, he's still in charge of producing the film and writing the script with Sayagues, with the latter making his directorial debut this time around. So it could wind up being pretty good or pretty bad, depending on how he does as a director. "Don't Breathe" is another film that I didn't expect to receive a follow-up on until it was announced. I remembered liking the heck out of it for its atmosphere and frights when it first came out in 2016. It was a great piece of original horror content that represented Fede Álvarez's ability to balance the home invasion trope with R-rated violence. Even though I'm not highly excited to see the sequel, I was curious to see how it will expand the concept with a new perspective. With that said, let's see if this horror sequel can live up to its frightening predecessor.
The sequel takes place eight years after the first film, where Norman Nordstrom (Lang), aka "The Blind Man", lives peacefully in his new home. He's raising his 11-year-old daughter named Phoenix (Grace), thus fulfilling his goal to recreate a family that was taken away from him in the previous film. One night, his new life is interrupted by a new gang of criminals lead by Raylan (Sexton III). When they kidnap Phoenix and hold her hostage, Norman will have to unleash his fury once again to save her and eliminate his opponents one by one. The film retains the scenario from its predecessor in which a blind veteran terrorizes a group of criminals. The only difference it made was that it focused more on the terrorizer rather than his victims. That's right. The antagonist from the original has been promoted to protagonist duty in the sequel. While this new perspective was an intriguing way to keep the concept fresh, it can also be a pretty big challenge for Álvarez and Sayagues to make him more sympathetic. Sure, he lost his biological daughter, but that doesn't excuse him for attempting to insert a turkey baster full of semen into Jane Levy's hole. It's the type of perspective that could've gone off the rails if not done correctly. Fortunately, the team behind the original film managed to make this work for me for the most part. This new direction allowed Álvarez and Sayagues to emphasize the Blind Man's personality further as he is forced to face the sins from his past while protecting his new daughter. Even though their execution towards this direction faltered more times than the film's body count, I appreciate their effort nonetheless. If the film were to be handled by someone other than Álvarez and Sayagues, it would've been an immediate disaster right from the start. As for the film itself, it's no surprise to see that this is another horror sequel that fell into the shadow of its stellar predecessor. However, unlike the other horror follow-ups that I had to sit through this year, this one was more tolerable despite its flaws. One of those reasons was Stephen Lang's portrayal of The Blind Man. Lang was an immediate attention-grabber in the original because of his terrifying performance, and the same can be said about him in "Don't Breathe 2". The actor maintained the qualities that made his character menacing, and he also did well with expressing his compassionate side. The supporting cast who starred alongside Lang was all right, even though they're not as good as the main crooks in the first film. Brendan Sexton III was serviceable in his role as Raylan, and newcomer Madelyn Grace didn't do too bad as Phoenix, although she did sound a bit flat during a couple of scenes. The film was also enjoyable because of its use of tension and atmosphere. What made its predecessor great in my eyes was how it used these elements to terrify its audience and make their hearts race rather than relying on cheap jump scare tactics and gore. The sequel managed to preserve them with decent results thanks to Sayagues's understanding of its concept. It doesn't compete with what Álvarez did with the original in terms of the action and scares, but it worked well enough to provide a scary good time. What killed this momentum, however, was its formulaic storytelling. Its screenplay was filled with familiar tropes, weak side characters, and mediocre dialogue, all of which weren't executed properly by Álvarez and Sayagues. Not only that, but it also had a couple of elements that somehow made it feel more like a cliched action thriller than a "Don't Breathe" sequel. The film happens to be more violent and gruesome than its predecessor, with more ways for the Blind Man to torture his enemies. While the kills weren't overly excessive, except the one near the end, they did betray the purpose of balancing suspense with violence. Then there's the film's second half, which transitioned from a home invasion thriller to a save-the-loved-one-from-bad-guys thriller. Despite some slight hints of enjoyment in seeing the main character murder the heartless criminals, its second half wasn't as intense as the first half. It felt like it could've belonged to any other action thriller besides "Don't Breathe 2". Sure, it avoids repetitiveness, but it also strayed from what made the original a horror gem. It's a lose-lose scenario that I can see with my own eyes.
Overall, "Don't Breathe 2" couldn't quite hold its breath long enough to escape its formulaic grasp. Stephen Lang made a well-deserved effort in injecting some life into the sequel, and Sayagues did a decent job with its first half regarding his direction. Unfortunately, they couldn't keep it from blindly relying on its tropes and kills instead of suspense and scares. It's more enjoyable than the other horror sequels I saw this year, like "Spiral" and "The Forever Purge". But it's still another unnecessary follow-up that tarnishes the original's legacy with its franchise-building formula. It's an okay watch if you're in a mood for some adult-rated frights. Other than that, there's nothing to see in there that'll impress plenty of fans of its predecessor.
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