*. I liked Don’t Breathe (2016), and knew that a sequel was immediately in the works, but I wasn’t feeling that good about another one. It didn’t seem like they had a lot to work with in the creepy reverse-home invasion story of a blind old super-soldier who lives in a derelict building in the wastelands of Detroit, where he imprisons young women in the hope of impregnating them and having a kid.
*. Eight years later, however, it seems that the Blind Man, a.k.a. Norman Nordstrom (Stephen Lang), has turned over a new leaf, having adopted a daughter he’s named Phoenix (Madelyn Grace) and raised her in various urban-jungle survival skills. But then trouble comes calling, again . . .
*. I have to admit, what I was dreading the most about Don’t Breathe 2 was that it would be a retread of the first movie, and to give them full credit that’s not the direction they went. Instead the decision was made to redeem Norman and present him as the hero. Add to this a plot that comes with a ridiculous but undeniably dark twist and you have a script that producer Sam Raimi, not an unbiased source, thought “the greatest idea for a sequel I’ve ever heard.” I didn’t think quite that highly of it, but it wasn’t what I was expecting, which I liked.
*. Alas, the easiest way to redeem Norman, aside from showing his affection for dogs, is by making him seem good in comparison to the bad guys in the movie. Which means those bad guys are really, really bad. Some of them are stock baddies of the “yo, bro” school, who wear their hoodies up even at night and hold their pistols flat (that is, canted at a 90 degree angle).
*. I don’t know why people hold their guns that way. There was an episode of The Sopranos where Christopher sees a rent-a-hood doing it and he corrects him with disgust. I guess we can blame the media. According to Wikipedia: “Shooting a gun in this way has no practical benefit under most circumstances and makes proper aiming very difficult, but the style has become somewhat popular in hip hop culture and among street criminals (who do not often use the gun sight) due to its portrayal in American film and television since the early 1990s.”
*. In any event, these are the grunts. The main bad guy is something worse, which ties into the plot twist I mentioned and which I’ll only describe here as really fucked up. Though it’s not surprising, given the information we’re presented with. You’ll see it coming. The only surprise I felt was that they took it as far as they did.
*. Here’s something I said in my notes on Those Who Wish Me Dead, which I was relating to the similar storyline in The Marksman: “Is there some underlying message or anxiety being tapped into in these movies about a crisis in American parenthood? Orphaned children having to depend on these strange, solitary, cowboy figures to survive?” The question stands.
*. The film is formulaic to be sure, but it has enough that’s interesting about it to make it worthwhile. I like the way Lang plays the part. Norman seems a truly tortured soul. The kills and action sequences are reasonably fresh, if far-fetched. One bad guy has his mouth and nose glued shut, meaning a hole has to be stabbed into his cheek for him to breathe. Another scene has Norman playing dead in a cellar filled with an inch of water so that when the bad guys come after him he can pick up their locations by the ripples they set off. I thought that was clever.
*. First-time director Rodo Sayagues, who co-wrote both films, acquits himself well, even throwing in one acrobatic continuous take (or a shot made to seem like a continuous take). It’s not a scary movie, but it’s suitably dark and intense and just different enough to pass muster. It is, of course, unnecessary, but was better than I expected and gets points for trying to mix things up and shocking the audience in a new way.