One of the most underrated horror/thrillers of the past decade was easily Fede Álvarez’s Don’t Breathe. The tense, heart-pounding suspense and brutal, but surprisingly pared back (at least compared to the absolute bloodbath that was Álvarez’s first feature 2013’s Evil Dead) instances of violence shook me to my absolute core. It’s a lean, mean horror machine with a really nuanced, yet frightening performance from Stephen Lang, playing the somewhat sympathetic, but mostly garishly repulsive character of The Blind Man aka Norman Nordstrom, hunting down three burglars after a stash of money in his home. Naturally, with great success, comes great sequels, and while Álvarez stepped away from the directing position for other projects, he remained as a writer and producer, while handing directorial duties off to main producing partner Rodo Sayagues, who also wrote and produced both Evil Dead, as well as the first Don’t Breathe. Don’t Breathe 2 seemed like an easy follow-up to a deceptively simple original. What could go wrong?
Literally everything has gone wrong. Let’s start with the biggest, deadliest sin of this absolute travesty of a film: its “plot.”
Set eight years after the events of the first film, Norman Nordstrom (Stephen Lang) is living in his Detroit home with his rottweiler, Shadow, as well as an 11-year-old girl, Phoenix (Madelyn Grace), who believes Norman to be her father, and whose mother died in a house fire. After attracting the ire of local thugs led by Raylan (Brandon Sexton III), Nordstrom soon finds his home under attack by said thugs, who Nordstom discovers have a closer connection to Phoenix than he initially thought. He must hone his impressive and terrifying skills as a former Navy SEAL once more to defend his home.
I have no idea what the absolute hell went down with Don’t Breathe 2, but we’re stuck with whatever….this is. The way in which the film completely negates every terrifying thing about the first one by making such a reprehensible villain the heroic lead is not only gross, it’s insulting to the audience who expected something even remotely as competent as the first film. That being said, there are a ton of horror sequels that don’t live up to the original’s heights; it’s a normal occurrence, but the difference that Don’t Breathe 2 has over similarly underwhelming sequels is that it actually makes the first film feel less consequential, less frightening, and by design, a film that when viewed with this film, something that actually has no idea what it wants to be. It’s so incredibly clear that everything about this film was a cash grab, but even then, we live in an age where even cash grabs can have some form of competence to them. This is a special breed of terrible, and I almost feel bad ragging on it so much, but I cannot force myself to feel any differently.
As for the home release, Sony was kind enough to send along the standard Blu-ray package that comes with a digital copy of the film alongside it. There is also a 4K release that comes with the same digital code, but surprisingly no standard Blu-ray copy seen in most combo packs. The image, while terribly ugly, is by design, and the transfer of the dark, dingy, digital image is well-maintained, with a hearty black level and a crisp, clean image that never feels muddy or messy. I’d be interested to see how the film views in 4K with HDR, as while the film is far from colorful, the deep, inky black level would ideally give the film a lot of added depth.
The 1080p Blu-ray also includes a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, with the Dolby Atmos track reserved exclusively for the 4K release. While that might sound disappointing on paper, if Don’t Breathe 2 does *anything* right, it’s creating a wide, detail-oriented soundscape with great power in the bass track and an unsurprisingly great usage of atmospheric surround effects. While I’m sure the Atmos track only builds upon that, I can hardly imagine anyone walking away from the audio experience of Don’t Breathe 2 feeling disappointed.
Even more surprisingly, Sony has somewhat delivered on the special features included with this release, with not just one, but two commentary tracks accompanying the film. The first, an English-language track with director Rodo Sayagues, is filled with many anecdotal stories about production and is a pretty standard commentary overall. The second track, a Spanish-language, English subtitled track with Sayagues, writer/producer Fede Álvarez, and cinematographer Pedro Luque, delves more into the production side of things and how many sequences in the film were pulled off. Also included are featurettes focusing on Álvarez’s and Sayagues’s working relationship, Lang’s performance as Nordstrom, as well as a short featurette detailing certain parts of production with behind-the-scenes footage. Lastly included is an extended ending to the film that, quite frankly, does nothing to improve upon the already incredibly messy ending the film already has. All things said, Sony put together a pretty decent package of supplemental material.
Listen, I think Don’t Breathe 2 is a truly, utterly god awful film that completely misunderstands everything that the first film stands for, and insults the intelligence of the audience who even expected the film to be operating at even a 50% competency rate of the original. It’s morally gross, emotionally dry, terribly written, and not only adds nothing of value to the legacy of the original film, it actually subtracts from it. That being said, if you’re even remotely a fan of this film, Sony has delivered a shockingly high-quality Blu-ray (and presumably 4K) release for the film, with a faithful visual transfer, wonderfully powerful audio track, and a surprising amount of special features that almost made me like the film even just the slightest bit more. While I really can’t recommend the film to anyone even remotely, if you do watch it, or already have and liked it (no judgment, we all have our tastes), you’re gonna walk away pretty satisfied with this home video release.
Available on digital October 12th, 2021.
Available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD October 26th, 2021.
Final Score: 1 out of 5.
Blu-ray Release Score: 4 out of 5.