Don’t Breathe 2 Review
Don’t Breathe 2 hits theaters on Aug. 13.
In 2016, Don’t Breathe introduced Stephen Lang as Norman Nordstrom, a past-his-prime Army veteran with some seriously violent tendencies, to say the least. His silently menacing performance made what could’ve been a tired trope intriguing viewing, and his return to the role in Don’t Breathe 2 mostly delivers on this front. Unfortunately, he just can’t rescue this horror sequel from the trappings of mediocrity.
Don’t Breathe 2 doesn’t bother to shake up the crux of the plot too much; another home invasion movie, it once again finds the house of Norman ransacked. This time around, though, the loot that’s being hunted isn’t some large pile of cash. Instead, it’s a young girl named Phoenix (Madelyn Grace). And news flash: she’s Norman’s daughter.
We get the idea very early on that Phoenix will go through some sort of life-threatening excursion, as Norman puts her through regular endurance tests of both the mind and body. When the camera follows her through the rundown streets of Detroit, it becomes clear that potential danger exists around each and every corner. Perhaps all this training may come in handy. Perhaps Norman should keep her on a tighter leash. As you would expect, he doesn’t.
When things go south, they do so quickly. A gang of military thugs — led in a laughably creepy way by Brendan Sexton III — take over their house, and what transpires is a game of hide-and-seek between Phoenix and her pursuers that uses careful movements and silence to instill that edge-of-your-seat feeling horror fans covet. They never get to the kind of audio manipulation that made A Quiet Place so chilling, but it’s sequences like this one, where the camera work and walking-on-eggshells choreography are on full display, that allow the movie to, uh, breathe.
In fact, there are a few cinematography tricks that work well enough here, delivering a kinetic, disorienting, and brooding experience. However, matching these style choices with a substantive narrative proves to be a challenging balancing act for first-time director Rodo Sayagues. He struggles to create an emotional bond between us and the characters, with some seemingly computer-generated fire and tears failing to achieve that goal.
Camera work and lighting gimmicks only go so far. Instead of solidifying the kinds of connections it needs to sustain its 90-minute runtime, Don’t Breathe 2 relies on clunky dialogue, under-developed characters, and a whole slew of predictable choices. By the third act, the twists that are revealed land more like bad jokes than tension-building plot points.
Camera work and lighting gimmicks only go so far.
Even though the blood spilled and gritty violence is copious, the lack of believability driving each character’s decision leaves things feeling a bit flat. If we’re expected to invest in the father-daughter relationship between Phoenix and Norman, which is the foundational relationship carrying this story, it would surely help if it felt that these two characters really cared for each other. Lang’s weathered performance can only carry things so far. It almost feels like everything that happens here relies on the man’s broad-shouldered talent for support, but when all is said and done, that’s not nearly enough to justify Don’t Breathe 2 as a necessary sequel.
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