Five years ago, "Don't Breathe" came out, and I saw it in theaters at the time. I'm not a big fan of horror, but can appreciate quality films in the genre. I was genuinely surprised at how good it was. Despite having a few outlandish and gross moments, it was an incredibly lean, mean, and taut genre filmmaking exercise stuffed to the brim with gripping suspense and originality. It was able to turn the tables on all the genre tropes of the "home invasion" movie in very clever ways, and used thoughtful character development to help tell its story. When I heard a sequel was being made, I was cautiously optimistic, although I was a bit concerned after seeing the first trailer that they were trying to make someone as morally repugnant as the Blind Man into some sort of a hero. This sequel isn't terrible by any means, and still has some good sequences of white-knuckle tension. That said, it unfortunately ends up being a largely futile exercise deficient in the substance and originality that the first movie comparatively relished in.
This sequel is set after the first movie, and the Blind Man is now raising a young girl named Phoenix. A gang of kidnappers looking for the girl show up at his new, off-the-beaten-path house one night, and suffice it to say all hell breaks loose. I am not at liberty to say what happens after that, or what the motivations of the kidnappers might be. The "home invasion" sequence involving the kidnappers lasts for almost a third of the film's runtime. It's pretty suspenseful and gripping, and has great sound design, but it shows nowhere near the level of creative prowess as the home invasion in the first movie. This is because the Blind Man's house in the first film was almost like a character in and of itself; the design of the house was meticulously intertwined with almost every set-up between the him and the robbers. The level of creativity this time around pales in comparison, although viewers just looking for the Blind Man to brutally go berserk will certainly get their fill of that. Stephen Lang does a great job playing the Blind Man, and the child actress playing Phoenix gives a strong performance as well. The plot gradually becomes more incoherent and messy, and lacks the tightness and cohesion of the first film. One of the major flaws of "Don't Breathe 2" in comparison with the first installment is its near-total lack of character development. The film makes little effort to develop its characters in creative ways, unlike the first film. In the first film, viewers were aware from very early on the distinct personalities of the three main robbers, and the Blind Man was much better developed. This time around, viewers learn shockingly little more about him than they did in the first film--which, in my book, shows that the screenplay here failed to fully do its job. The film attempts to make some commentary about the ethical paradox of trying to get viewers to (partially) sympathize with the Blind Man despite his brutality and misogyny, but ends up trying to do so in a very muted way that ends up narratively shooting itself in the foot.
Despite some brutally effective sequences of tension, this sequel feels like a letdown compared to the first film. If there is a "Don't Breathe 3," they need to bring back Jane Levy's character and make a substantial emphasis on creative character development in the screenplay. 5/10.