Rated R because the first one touched on some brutal motifs, so the second one had to at least allude to them. While the first movie is more of a hard R, this one definitely deserves to be R. It is a brutal horror movie, but much of this comes down to violence. Sure, there's a heavy drug theme and there's a kid in danger in this one. But if you took the violence of the first movie and removed the attempted rape, that's this movie. They still discuss the fact that the blind man is a killer and a rapist, but not much is seen on screen. R.
DIRECTOR: Rodo Sayagues
Oh man, writing when you are in a bad mood. I already put this off for two days because I was in a bad mood and now I'm realizing how distanced I am from the original viewing of this film. Also, my daughter is screaming at me to push up her frozen yogurt tube about every minute and a half, so I'm sure the momentum on this blog is going to be fantastic. I rarely watch the special features to movies anymore. I would rather start another movie than watch something that is borderline marketing for the film. But it was late at night / early in the morning when I was watching this and I was having my anxiety about the next day, so I decided to watch some stuff. And the thing is...when I was watching the movie, I knew what direction my blog was going to go. But it seems like the major criticism I have about this movie is something that was actually deliberate. So let's see how that affects my writing.
It's weird how I'll invest in horror movie sequels, even of films that I only thought were okay. When I watched the first Don't Breathe, I had issues with it. I can't say that I disliked it, but I also knew that the movie had major problems that could have been addressed. So why watch the second one? The easiest answer that I can live with: It's very easy to say "Add to Queue" on my Netflix DVD account. Yup. It doesn't take a lot for me to sit down for a movie, especially if I have the mildest form of investment in the franchise. But I was going to rail on this movie for not actually having a protagonist. That was the crux of my blog. And then I found out that the writers and director of this movie knew that and did it anyway? That was supposed to make me look really smart. It was going to be this deep dive analysis about how this is a movie that doesn't know what story it is telling and then I found out that it was the point of the movie. That really clips my wings. (Insert political joke about the far right and their aversion to facts.)
But I can come at this from a perspective of an audience member. After all, that's what I am and a fancy logo gracing my blog doesn't really change that. Early in the film, we realize that we have one character to root for: Phoenix. I would love to say that Phoenix is the protagonist, but she's more of a Macguffin than an actual character. I'm going to go off on a tangent because that's what I do (and I don't know where else to fit this point in the blog). The movie starts off with Phoenix running away from a burning house in Detroit. The film apparently is this unravelling of what was happening in this moment. The problem is...this is a sequel to a movie that was fairly forgettable when it came to plot. I won't ever disparage the first film in terms of scares and suspense. It was fabulous for that. But to start a sequel with the scene of a girl running away from a burning house and then saying "Eight Years Later"...well, that's just confusing. I kept asking, "Was there a girl in the first movie? Did the house burn down?" Neither of those things happened. I kept pausing the film to explore Wikipedia and sure enough, neither of those things happened.
Anyway, Phoenix. Phoenix seems like she is going to be a character with agency in this movie. Following the eight year time jump, we're given the ol' training montage fake-out. (You know, where it looks like a character is in real danger, only to find out that the whole thing was a simulation.) The movie starts off by implying that Phoenix is going to be X-23 (no X-Men attachment intended). It's setting up for the fact that Phoenix is going to bust some heads later. But no, that doesn't happen. Instead, the movie sets up Norman to be the hero of the film. And that's where I'm confused about what the movie is supposed to be. To a certain extent, the movie is setting up Norman to be a sympathetic character. He's redeeming himself because he's gotten his goal of being a father again. But this should be noted: Norman is completely a rapist. He's one of the grossest rapists imaginable. He was going to rape a girl with a turkey baster in the first film and we're supposed to forget that? He kept women in his basement. I wrote this whole thing about how gutsy the first movie was for making a blind man completely despicable. Norman, towards the end of the film, confesses that he's a rapist and a murderer. That's good. But it goes from being an abstract concept with words to a very on-screen reminder of how gross Norman is.
So how does the movie make Norman the hero of the story? They have to make Phoenix's real parents so over-the-top evil that we have to start rooting for Norman. The movie, in its short form, should be "Parents search for kidnapped daughter only to be hunted down by blind rapist/murderer." Technically, nothing I said there was inaccurate. But the movie wants Norman to come out of this movie as the tank that he's always been, so to do that, we needed them so over-the-top that there's no prayer that this movie feels like reality. It would be bad enough that the parents cooked meth. That's pretty bad. That's why the house was on fire at the beginning. Okay, that makes them pretty unlikable. But then the movie adds this extra element that they want to kill Phoenix to save mom? That's a bit much, right? I mean, why even have Phoenix talk to Mom and Dad if they're only going to cut her heart moments later?
Okay, that's all stuff that the filmmakers intended. Again, I should never watch special features. But let's say something that doesn't make a lick of sense. The movie hides what the true motivation of Raylan is. We know he's gross from moment one because he kills one of the few likable characters in the film (who apparently knows that Norman is a bad dude, but is cool with it anyway?) But the first half of the film is implying that the crew is trying to kill Phoenix. At one point, Phoenix barricades herself in what is meant to be a Panic-Room-styled box. The bad guy chasing her starts flooding the compartment when she won't open the door. When Norman accosts the attacker, he threatens to electrocute her. Now, you could write it off as the bad guy being afraid for his life, but there are two issues with that. This is early in the film. Norman is just a blind guy and this is a guy who is overconfident. Also, the entire purpose of being here is that everyone is obsessed with Momma, the meth cook. So frying Phoenix doesn't fit with the story.
Sequels tend to have these problems. Usually, the first film is a pretty simple concept. In certain regards, Don't Breathe tried complicating its own plot. But the meat and potatoes of the movie is that the first film is simply an inversion of the heroes and villains where the prey becomes the predator. Sequels always want to tell a different story while still finding the core of what made the first one watchable. But this means a forced story that honestly doesn't work. It just seems like there are all these "Gotcha" moments that don't really work. Rather, we just want to see Stephen Lang take apart dudes Rambo-style, but now he's not the scary one. When he's the hero of the story, he can't really be the scary one. It goes a lot more into "Oh cool" and "Gore" than it does into anything that would be honestly scary.
While not a terrible film, there's nothing that attaches me to this one. It's really weird that Stephen Lang is the protagonist in this film both because Norman doesn't deserve redemption and that it is Stephen Lang playing the part. I wonder what draws someone like Lang to a movie like this, but I also know so little about Lang that it probably wouldn't make much sense to speculate.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.