I was completely prepared to give this movie any grade possible, because not only did I feel the same way when pondering my grade for the first Don’t Breathe, but the fact this was going to present one of the most hated villains of modern times as a turnaround protagonist made this movie so easy to hate in concept. I to this day believe it was a mistake letting The Blind Man live at the very end of the first movie after it seemed like it was dead. It took away a lot of the satisfaction and relief, and it opened up the door to make this little feature. Saying I’ve been curious about this movie would be an understatement. Don’t Breathe majorly screwed me up when I saw it five years ago. It made me furious and more than a few times I wished I could torture The Blind Man myself, and anyone who thinks that is sick of me to wish hasn’t seen the movie for themselves. For a while, I planned on writing a Don’t Breathe sequel of my own in which I could bring Rocky back to kill the old bat. So how could I not recommend that film, you know? And imagine my utter surprise when I came out of Don’t Breathe 2 actually loving the hell out of it!
When we last saw Norman Nordstrom, or just known as said Blind Man, he nearly died from both an accidental gunshot wound and the last survivor of his wrath believing him dead and not finishing him off before escaping his barred deathtrap of a home, with the million dollars he won in compensation for his daughter getting run over. Now we see him at least a few years later, in a different home. No clue how he could afford it being both broke and not reporting the stolen money. Selling his house probably wouldn’t have amounted to much. All of Buena Vista Street is a true dump.
Whichever way, he now has a daughter named Phoenix (Madelyn Grace), and she is definitely raised like Laurie Strode’s daughters from the new rebooted Halloween series, only maybe with even stricter measures. Phoenix was raised to believe the world was a terrible place that would strike her the moment she showed weakness, and she’s been homeschooled and not allowed to make friends. But one day while driving through town with a woman named Hernandez who brings Phoenix and their rottweiler Shadow into town for visits and shopping, a weirdo named Raylan (Brendan Sexton III) corners Phoenix alone in a public bathroom, but she shoos him off expertly. But something brought attention specifically to her with some people committed to taking her, and we know Norman is not going to just let them take her, but he might not be enough, to both protect her and be a proper father when some truths are revealed.
We are living in an age where more and more movies are displaying the stories of the villains we’ve loved to see beaten, like Cruella, Venom and Joker, but Mr. Nordstrom is an entirely different case. My hatred for him has been cemented. Even my hatred for Abby in The Last Of Us Part II has weakened a bit over time, but director Fede Alvarez just did a great job in making Mr. Nordstrom that irredeemable.
So there was that obstacle, for starters, but what makes Don’t Breathe 2 work so well is that it uses one of the best story ideas possible for this world. It allows some homages to the original. It has plenty of new material to work with. It has the same atmosphere of the first film, in a Detroit where everyone is down on their luck and needs to be sacked up to avoid being shanked. It provides a surprise that makes you wonder who it would be best to root for, because the robbers in this movie can really creep you out. There are so many action scenes that are nail-biting, but even better, inventive. Then the story gets messed up to the point of making you really wonder if it would be better off The Blind Man come out of this story prevailing. And most importantly, it does not try to paint The Blind Man as someone who deserves to be happy. Hernandez says to him, unaware of his past but aware there’s something he’s keeping secret, that he’s a bad person, and this actually cuts deep. I was not expecting the response nor the phrase to ever be said.
We begin the onslaught with one of the best single shots I’ve ever seen, Phoenix sneaking around her house to slip away from the new intruders, like the single shot of the original trio searching through the house but taken to the next level. And a strong point in the movie I wasn’t expecting is it doesn’t make The Blind Man eye-rollingly indestructible to all the robbers throw at him. The robbers really fight back. A new dog in the mix, which must be a pit bull, attacks Norman, who hesitates on shooting him even when being attacked, and that was one of the first shots to make me realize maybe having a daughter again opened up a wound in his soul. Or maybe he realized life was returning to hell for him because one way or another he no longer had a daughter he could keep under wraps and just with him. This is like watching someone from afar who personally killed your aunt or uncle have a breakdown, and it’s both satisfying and deeply strange.
I should also mention this movie reaches nearly the same level as Evil Dead with gore. Don’t Breathe 2 recognizes human skulls are rough and hard to break open, and that the people of Detroit have ones quite thick. They’ve survived up to this point. The people behind these movies give some of the most harrowing death scenes imaginable, because the crunches, stabs, and light coughs of blood do not care about the sensitivity of any of us.
Two main flaws show up. There’s very little distinction between the robbers, and more could’ve gone in to make them a little more developed during the break-in so we care a little more when they get killed or seem to get the upper hand against Norman. There’s also a character who gets a change of heart about something, but he acts on said change of heart right after narrowly missing several gunshots. That just wouldn’t happen. But these are really made up for with a storyline behind the robbers and past history that is definitely not setting up for sequels. It clearly has faith in what it wants to tell and how it wants to drag its characters through the saw.
Now, listen. You might not like Don’t Breathe 2. That applies for every movie I recommend, but this one is definitely one I can understand you not enjoying, just like how I didn’t like Darren Aronofsky’s mother! and there were a lot of people who recommended the movie who would understand my distaste. There’s a lot of gore, and the subject of sympathy towards a kidnapper, murderer and rapist is definitely questionable. But if you like legitimate horror, bludgeoning violence, and extremely tough inner conflict, this is a tantalizing follow-up to the twisted original.