It’s fair to say that Don’t Breathe was a runaway hit. It doesn’t matter if you liked it or not, it was popular and it took a lot of people by surprise. There was never a question that a sequel was on its way. Stephen Lang (The Blind Man) himself has been ready to continue this story since the first film hit. As he told Den of Geek back in 2018, “We’re going to do a sequel to Don’t Breathe. And dude, listen, I’d be happy to do like seven Don’t Breathe(s). You know I’ll just keep on killing.” So with a dedicated team wanting to wow its audience, can the new sequel deliver the same experience?
Years have passed since the events of Don’t Breathe, and The Blind Man has moved to a new house. He even has a new daughter. While his new domicile is more laxed in its security measures, he’s taking no precautions with his daughter’s safety. He is training her on how to defend and protect herself. A trip into town is a rare treat for her. She needs to complete specific tasks if it can even be considered for her to venture away from the house. Eventually, The Blind Man’s only confidant convinces him to let the girl have a day off. While using a gas station restroom however, she gains the attention of a sketchy punk and his gang of thugs. When the group appears at The Blind Man’s house that night to collect his daughter, they’re in for the fight of their lives.
If Don’t Breathe walked a thin line of morality when it came to all its characters, Don’t Breathe 2 can’t even see the line. Don’t Breathe is now a series of films where every character is morally corrupt. Even if you want to allow them a sliver of forgiveness or redemption, it’s purely momentary. Yes, Phoenix (Madelyn Grace as The Blind Man’s Daughter) is an innocent soul, but somewhere along the line she is less the protagonist and more the McGuffin. As a viewer, you focus more on the motives and nature of the groups fighting over her future, and they are all morally bankrupt. While you’re hoping she ends up safe and happy, you’re hard-pressed to forget who has been raising her this hole time. And there’s the rub.
While not common, it isn’t unheard of for someone to watch a sequel without ever seeing the original. Don’t Breathe 2 could stand alone as its own film. What took place in the first film, is never mentioned. Though there is a certain level of self acknowledgment late in the film by The Blind Man to him not being a “good person,” the specifics are never spoken. When the revelations start to come to light, a newcomer to the franchise will have a lot of doubt as to what outcome might be best for young Phoenix. But if they were privy to the information from the first film, I don’t see how anyone could question what should happen to these characters.
All of this builds-in a fascinating angle to look at Don’t Breathe 2 from, but it will be a very small percentage of people who will be able to view the film this way. The draw of any sequel is to bring back fans of the original. How anyone can for a second think The Blind Man can be given a redemption arch (no matter what he has been through), must be Jesus Christ re-born. Even then, there is no way Jesus is giving this man a pass! Granted, there are people out there who just want to see a blind ex-navy seal beat the hell out of people invading his house. But you know the writers were looking to build in a moral conundrum into both films.
Speaking of a blind man kicking the ever-loving hell out of home invaders; Don’t Breathe 2 suffers from a lot of the same situational pitfalls as the first film. Both films stray away from claiming The Blind Man has super heightened senses since he lost his sight, and yet both films proceed to either give him these abilities or not, depending on how “cool,” the action is meant to be. One minute, the slightest creak in the wood will garner The Blind Man’s attention; but the nearby gunshot in the woods near his house to scare away his dog doesn’t even register with him. He’s in an isolated area, and he’s just going to go about his day after a hearing that gun go off?
Worse yet, the believability of his actions is only made possible by the location of these fights and confrontations taking place in his home. This is the sequel though, which means the stakes need to get bigger and more diverse. So, at the end of the film, the action is now in a location unfamiliar to The Blind Man. Yet, he still has a more contextual understanding of his surroundings than everyone else. Sure, he sets off some smoke bombs so no one can really see. But, he can run around like a ninja with no issues, while those with sight and working knowledge of the surroundings can’t negotiate their way around a steep drop.
Side note too (possible mini-spoiler); Someone please explain to me why when one of the intruders gets his mouth and nostrils (though I hardly remember it being anything more than his mouth) glued shut, why did his brother take a screw driver and pierce his check so he could breathe? I mean, two seconds later the dude cuts the glue open with a piece of glass. Why didn’t they just do the same thing with the screwdriver? Gore for gore’s sake, I guess.
No one is claiming the Don’t Breathe films are meant to be breathtaking works of art. These are thrillers where you want to be entertained, and certainly, there will be people who find it entertaining. It’s the strange conundrum of the moral compass of these characters that saves it from being a complete failure.
Final Grade- C+
Here’s the trailer of the film.