The Movie Waffler New to Netflix - DON’T BREATHE 2 | The Movie Waffler

New to Netflix - DON’T BREATHE 2

New to Netflix - DON’T BREATHE 2
The Blind Man contends with another set of home invaders.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Rodo Sayagues

Starring: Stephen Lang, Madelyn Grace, Brendan Sexton III, Stephanie Arcila, Bobby Schofield

don't breathe 2 poster

One of the many ridiculous aspects of the Fast & Furious franchise is how the villain of one instalment can become the hero of the next, accepted by the protagonists regardless of what sins they might have committed. This led to the online 'Justice for Han' campaign, in which fans tried to remind the screenwriters that Jason Statham's Deckard Shaw brutally murdered Sung Kang's Han Lue and they struggled to buy him becoming a wisecracking buddy of Han's surviving friends.

A swift transition from goody to baddy is possible. Just look at Terminator 2. But that's a unique scenario. Arnie's T-800 isn't a human, it's a machine programmed to serve its master, and so isn't subject to any moral judgement.

If the villain of your movie is guilty of crimes including murder, rape and kidnapping, is it possible to flip them into hero mode for an immediate sequel? On the evidence of Don't Breathe 2, no, it's not.

don't breathe 2 review

Fede Alvarez's surprise hit Don't Breathe saw a gang of young hoodlums break into the home of a blind military vet with the intention of stealing his life savings. Turned out the blind man in question, Norman Nordstrom (Stephen Lang, completing his transition from schlubby character actor to jacked up man mountain), had some dark secrets of his own which he was willing to kill to protect. How do you get the audience to root for home invaders over a blind man? Well, you reveal that the blind man has an abducted woman imprisoned in his basement, and he's impregnated her with his own seed and the use of a turkey baster.

Having survived the first movie, Nordstrom returns for the sequel (the first film's anti-heroine, played by Jane Levy, is sorely missed here). He's up to his abduction antics once again as a prologue shows how he swiped a three-year-old after she escaped from her parents' burning home. Eight years later and the girl, whom he's named Phoenix (Madelyn Grace), has been well and truly gaslit into believing that she's Nordstrom's daughter. He doesn't keep her in his basement at least, but he keeps her on a shorter leash than his pet Rottweiler. Nordstrom seems to have a genuine affection for Phoenix, which seems to be mutual, and there's no suggestion that any abuse has gone down in their relationship. Determined to keep Phoenix safe, Nordstrom puts her through rigorous survival training on a daily basis. This might seem like extreme helicopter parenting, but they do live in Detroit after all.

don't breathe 2 review

No amount of Nordstrom's doting father routine can erase our memory of what we learned about him in the first movie, so it's impossible to root for him, even if the antagonists are a right bunch of scuzzballs. This time, Nordstrom's home gets invaded by a bunch of hoods who aren't after money, but Phoenix. They're an instantly dislikable lot, all bad peroxide jobs who insist on calling each other "bro" despite being white. But Nordstrom has kidnapped a woman, raped her and eventually murdered her, along with kidnapping a child and gaslighting her for eight years!

Early on it seems that the film might centre Phoenix, who comes off initially as a bit of a badass. But any prospects of her being a pint-sized Sarah Connor are soon dispelled as she's abducted and it's left up to Nordstrom to deploy his unique set of skills to win her back. We've recently seen two movies from co-directors David Charbonier and Justin PowellThe Djinn and The Boy Behind the Door – that ably demonstrate how you can have a child as the hero of your horror movie. Watching Nordstrom butcher the baddies isn't half as interesting as a scenario in which Phoenix offs her abductors using the skills he taught her might have been. What's the point in establishing that Nordstrom has taught Phoenix all these survival skills if she never gets to deploy them?

The first movie may have had its share of silliness (why would a blind man keep newspaper clippings?), but Don't Breathe 2 reaches new levels of idiocy. The dialogue plays like it was created by a computer programme that was fed the scripts of a dozen '80s action movies. At one point, I shit you not, one of the baddies realises what they're up against and utters the line "The guy's a Navy SEAL!" Perhaps the dumbest aspect of Don't Breathe 2 is how it's revealed that its premise hangs on the idea that a gang of drug dealers need to keep a woman alive because she's their meth cook. Look, no offence to the good people of Motown, but I'm pretty sure they could find someone in Detroit who knows how to cook meth. They're able to run across a bloke who knows how to perform a heart transplant, for fuck's sake!

don't breathe 2 review

If Fede Alvarez's Don't Breathe felt like it was made by someone who grew up watching the classic grindhouse movies of the '70s, Rodo Sayagues' Don't Breathe 2 feels like it was made by someone who grew up watching the films of filmmakers who grew up watching the classic grindhouse movies of the '70s. It's the sort of movie Eli Roth might have made in 2005 if he was obsessed with French rather than Italian genre cinema (more than a few moments from Luc Besson's Nikita and Leon are cribbed from here, including a particularly cringey take on Gary Oldman's "Bring me everyone!!!" howl, while the pastel colour scheme recalls France's cinema du look school). There's a heavy whiff of Rob Zombie off its white trash aesthetics and edgelord provocations.

Alvarez's film was a tight, confined thriller that made great use of its single location and cleverly reversed the setup of Wait Until Dark. Sayagues' sequel is an unfocussed mess that suffers from an anti-hero we just can't sympathise with, confusing direction, laughable dialogue and a scuzzy worldview that prevents us from even enjoying its flaws on an ironic level.

Don't Breathe 2 is on Netflix UK/ROI now.