Don’t Breathe 2 Review: In the House Again
Don’t Breathe 2 is out this week. It is, of course, a sequel to 2016’s Don’t Breathe. I thought that was a tense enough and fun affair until something not that chill happened. You really need to know about that before, so let’s discuss it in a spoilery way before we get to our Don’t Breathe 2 review.
Don’t Breathe 1: Remember When We Didn’t Breathe the First Time?
(Content warning: Rape, Impregnation)
image via Sony Pictures Releasing
There is little connection between the storylines of the original and the sequel, except for the part where Stephen Lang plays a blind guy whom people love to home-invade. (Note: While they originally billed his character as literally “The Blind Man,” they have since identified him as Norman Nordstrom. I came home from the screening and immediately placed an order at Nordstrom, so good work, I guess.)
In any case, whether you’ve seen the original or not, there is one detail–very unchill–that I simply must mention. Whew. You can do this, champ. Okay, so. Don’t Breathe is about a trio of thieves who break into Nordstrom’s home. Normally they steal small potatoes shit to fence, but as I wrote in my review of the first film, “small change jobs like that get you…well, small change.” They hear that Nordstrom was the beneficiary of a big settlement, though, so they plan to take it from him.
Nordstrom got that settlement, incidentally, because Cindy Roberts (Franciska Töröcsik), a rich young woman, killed Nordstrom’s daughter in a car accident. She faced little punishment beyond the monetary cost. And that didn’t even cost her–her parents paid it.
As you can find out from the trailer, though, everything goes sideways when the thieves break and enter. Nordstrom, a Desert Storm veteran, is much more capable than they’d assumed. He’s also much more determined. Because when the thieves break into the basement, assuming from the locks that that’s where Nordstrom keeps the cash, they find Cindy. Not only is Nordstrom keeping her captive, but he’s also inseminated her. She took his child, he explains, so she owes him another. And when he accidentally kills her, he attempts to inseminate Rocky (Jane Levy), one of the thieves.
This plot detail is one of the most hideous things to which I have borne witness. And I’ve seen a lot of gross shit. I just don’t like it when stories introduce sexual violence just for the lazy drama of it. (Something, for instance, I wish I’d known about while watching the Lovecraft Country series premiere, because subsequent episodes inserted rape into the plot when it wasn’t there in the book.) I bring all this up for a specific reason that I’ll discuss later in the review. Just keep it in mind for now.
They Just Can’t Stay Out of This Man’s House
image via Sony Pictures Releasing
This time, the film is still set in Detroit, but Nordstrom has moved house. He’s still in an isolated location, though. You’d think after the events of the last film, when he was the sole occupant of an abandoned neighborhood, that he would move somewhere a little more populated. That might not stop people from trying to prey on him, but at least there would be folks there to notice.
Of course, there’s a reason why Nordstrom doesn’t want people paying close attention to him. At some point after the events of the first movie, he acquired a child. While Phoenix (Madelyn Grace) calls him “Father,” he ain’t her dad. This isn’t made explicit when we first see her, but if you’ve seen the first film, then you can surmise it yourself.
Nevertheless, while he may not be her biological father, he is trying to prepare her for the world. In addition to her normal homeschooling, he’s also schooling her in survival. And she’ll need that, because once again, strangers invade Nordstrom’s home.
Don’t Breathe 2 Review
Overall, my review of Don’t Breathe 2 is conflicted. It is consistently entertaining, but as with the recent Escape Room sequel, you must put your brain on pause for some parts. Not as many scenes as the other movie, thankfully, though. But still. There is a lot about this movie that makes little logical sense, and I would know, because I have my sister, the Question-Haver, interrogating me after most films.
For most of this film, including the beginning of the new home invasion, the movie plays like a retread of its predecessor. However, as events go on, things turn, and we find out exactly why the invaders, led by Raylan (Brendan Sexton III), have targeted Norman and Phoenix. While I won’t reveal that reason, I will say that cowriters Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues have come up with another horrible twist. This time, though, while it prompts a lot of questions–again, see my sister–it’s not as lazy and ugly feeling as rape.
And on that note, this movie tries to course-correct for the first film. In that one, Nordstrom defended his actions to Rocky by saying that he hadn’t actually raped Cindy. This time, though, he admits it to Phoenix, telling her that he’s a rapist. It’s something, but it doesn’t feel like enough, especially when audiences and critics are reading Nordstrom’s portrayal this time as an anti-hero. (For the record, Alvarez has clarified that Nordstrom is actually an anti-villain. By that, he means that Nordstrom sees himself as good, but he’s still a villain.) The thing that he did to get the life he has in this film is morally iffy. But it’s much more defensible than his actions in the first film.
So you might be able to forget those actions. And if you haven’t seen the first film, then you might even find him sympathetic. Lord knows his motives this time around sure are, especially compared to the opponents he faces down.
As for those showdowns, they play with much less suspense this time around. We know what Nordstrom is capable of. In fact, sometimes the things he’s capable of are also as logically inconsistent as the other plot points. For one (non-spoilery) example, it remains stunning just how much physical abuse this one older man can take.
Still, though, as I said, it’s never boring. Alvarez and Sayagues have created a lot of crazy (and crazy bloody) action sequences. You’ll probably enjoy this film if you’re looking for some b-movie horror fun. But if you’re looking for something more substantial, then don’t hold your breath.
Don’t Breathe 2 is now in theaters.
Have you seen Don’t Breathe 2 yet or are you planning on it? Tell us what you think in the comments or on our social media.
featured image via Sony Pictures Releasing
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf. Email her at [email protected]