On June 29, 2021, in Century City, California, I held my breath and plunged into a house full of deliciously rendered, suspense-filled horrors. I had seen a bit of footage from Don’t Breathe 2, the sequel to 2016’s gnarly horror-thriller about a vicious, blind warrior (Stephen Lang) who defends his home from robbers with brutal efficacy, at a recent “The Big Screen Is Back” event. I loved what I saw there. And now that I’ve seen more, at this special footage screening and Q&A with Don’t Breathe 2 filmmakers Rodo Sayagues (director, co-writer, producer) and Fede Álvarez (co-writer, producer), my anticipation level has raised nearly as high as my adrenaline levels.
The first clip shown was an expanded version of what I saw at the “Big Screen Is Back” event, a show-stopping one-take wonder of physical prowess, gripping suspense, and classical filmmaking heightened to a modern, muscular place. Sayagues and Álvarez talked about the long take in the original Don’t Breathe being such an effective tool of place-setting, and specifically designed this sequence to up the ante not only in terms of orientation, but in terms of moving the story, and the terror, forward (and Álvarez cheekily expressed relief that Sayagues would be the one to helm this complicated sequence, not himself). This version of the clip features our criminals, Adam Young, Bobby Schofield, and Rocci Williams, invading Norman’s (Lang) new home, trying both to avoid his heightened senses and capture his newly adopted daughter, who seems to have inherited some skills from Norman. DP Pedro Luque, a regular collaborator of Sayagues and Álvarez, leaves no stone unturned with his tense movements and neat visual blocking, and when the scene turns into more traditionally edited pieces of filmmaking, its for the purpose of broadening out our character motivations on either side of the chase — and for hitting us with one helluva jump scare.
The second clip involved, gulp, super glue. Your mind is probably already racing around what horrible way super glue can be used in a violent horror-thriller. What’s in the film, I promise you, is somehow worse and weirder than what you can imagine. This sequence begins with a foreshadowing image of Norman closing up a small wound of his own with super glue. But when one of these criminals invades his space, he uses the super glue on him in a way that, ah, really seems unpleasant.
That’s not the worst part of the sequence, though. When Young finds his fallen comrade, all super glued up with nowhere to go, he knows he has to save him. So he grabs a tool and does something so shocking and upsetting that it made me audibly go “Aughh!” My noise was so loud that other audience members of the event turned and gave me a look. If that’s not an endorsement of a horror film, I don’t know what is.
The final clip shown involved a basement, a box, running water, and electricity. It features a fight scene between Lang and Williams I would expect more out of a Raid or John Wick-styled hard-brawling action flick, not out of a tight suspense thriller. It features a child in so much peril that Sayagues and Álvarez had to assure us the young performer had a blast making the scene afterward. And it features a canny expansion of Norman’s skills, particularly as they relate to his senses beyond sight becoming heightened; “expansion” being a key word in the creative path of this sequel, with Sayagues and Álvarez assuring us all the clips shown were from the first half, and the second half goes places we won’t expect.
All of these scenes reveal Sayagues has quite the directorial career ahead of him. I found the original Don’t Breathe to be a fun enough thrill ride that still didn’t quite hit the marks of success and invention I wanted it to. In these clips alone, it feels like everything’s been cranked up to an appealingly aggressive degree, all with stylish and bold filmmaking to boot. Could Don’t Breathe 2 be that rare sequel that surpasses the original? Based on what I saw at this event, I’m gonna be holding my breath ’til I find out the answer.
Don’t Breathe 2 comes to theaters on August 13, 2021.
KEEP READING: ‘Don’t Breathe 2’ Lands Late 2021 Release Date
Or Castledroids, if you prefer.
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