How dangerous can an old blind man be? That's a question posed in Fede Alvarez's 2016 horror thriller, Don't Breathe. Five years later, Rodo Sayagues takes the reins and directs Don't Breathe 2. The result is an electrifying home invasion horror film driven by revenge and slammed with brutal, gruesome violence.
Norman Nordstrom (Stephen Lang) is an old, white-haired blind man. Blind as he may be, he isn't weak or defenseless though. As a veteran Navy SEAL, he's more than capable of taking care of himself and defending himself against home invaders, as moviegoers saw in the first film. Now, eight years after the events of the first film, Nordstrom is caring for an eleven-year-old girl by the name of Phoenix (Madelyn Grace). Trying to recreate the family that was taken from him, he keeps the young girl homebound out of fear of losing her to the outside world--a place that's darkened by the grisly threat of organ harvesters. It doesn't take long before Phoenix encounters the outside world and draws the dangerous criminal element back home to Nordstrom. And, as one might expect, Nordstrom must defend himself from another gang of home invaders--only this time, they're looking to take his girl away.
In the first film, Nordstrom is the one who's in control. Seemingly the underdog, he's a blind man who lives alone in his house. When a crew of young burglars invades his home, he subverts expectations and matches his wits with them in a suspenseful game of the hunter versus the hunted. Being that the delinquents are inexperienced and in unfamiliar territory, Nordstrom runs the show. In this film, however, viewers get to see Nordstrom on the ropes instead. Rather than being the hunter, he becomes the hunted in his own home.
No longer the master of his domain, in the second half of the movie Nordstrom finds his way to an abandoned luxury hotel that a drug-running gang of violent criminals have turned into their hellish den. There, viewers are drawn into an almost Lynchian juxtaposition of glamor and gunk--a high-ceilinged ballroom and what was once richly hued carpeting is veiled in deep shadows and caked in grime. The visuals are befitting of the denouement of the film, which is well-shot and highly stylized. And as a horror flick, it does a fine job of working in themes of revenge and redemption, as well as an allusion to the tether between mother and child.
In addition to some decent storytelling--at least by horror movie standards--the film features another great performance by Lang, who centers the film. The guttural cries that reverberate through his hoarse throat convey pain and surprise, as though every strike he endures is one that could end his life. When combined with his soldierly physique and dramatic portrayal of the physicality of violence, he captivates audiences with his screen presence and motion.
On the whole, Don't Breathe 2 is a sequel that's worth watching. Unlike many other horror sequels, it entertains audiences very well while adding a bit of depth to the storyline. The addition of a memorable setting keeps things fresh, as does a few modest twists. Those who enjoy the visceral thrill of a home invasion horror film beset by brutality and violence will be rather pleased.