In horror films, dogs often die. People die too, of course, and female characters are usually the quickest to perish.
There are exactly two women and two dogs in “Don’t Breathe 2.” More women are killed than dogs. Such is the chilling moral landscape of this sequel directed by Rodo Sayagues, who wrote both “Don’t Breathe” films with Fede Álvarez, the first movie’s director.
“Don’t Breathe,” a runaway 2016 hit, saw a blind veteran turned killing machine, Norman (Stephen Lang), face off against three delinquents in a twist on the home invasion genre. In that film, the robbers were ransacking his house for riches, but Norman was hiding a darker secret involving twisted dreams of fatherhood that were dashed during the heist.
In the sequel, our antihero (still played by Lang) has somehow acquired a daughter, Phoenix (Madelyn Grace). He tirelessly trains her in fighting and survival skills, but rarely lets her leave the house. Phoenix is so cooped up that she dreams of life at a children’s center. When some goons show up to kidnap her, a bloody showdown ensues, and her true parentage is revealed.
This film is harsh on women and girls, even by horror standards. After dispatching one of its only two women within the film’s first 15 minutes, “Don’t Breathe 2” sticks Phoenix between two despicable patriarchs. And compared to his competition, Norman looks like Father of the Year.
“Don’t Breathe 2” is plenty lively, full of violence and action, but a rancid narrative (and some seriously terrible dialogue) overpowers the script. And at the center of it all is Phoenix, needlessly shouldering a violent man’s neuroses at the tender age of 11. At least she gets out alive.
Don’t Breathe 2
Rated R for ubiquitous impalement and “Midsommar”-level skull-crushing. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. In theaters.
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