The base premise for Fede Álvarez’s 2016 horror movie Don’t Breathe was undeniably ingenious, asking, as it did, for audiences to accept a slasher film where the antagonist in question is not only the victim of a home invasion by armed thieves, but an elderly blind man, as well. A healthy portion of the film’s subsequent success (including a $150 million-plus take at the box office, off of a $10 million budget) can thus be attributed to Stephen Lang’s performance as the “bad guy” in question, a trained killer capable of projecting more menace in silent stillness than most horror movie bad guys can pull off with two pages of monologue. Of course, the balance of the audience sympathy’s was also carefully tilted by Álvarez and Rodo Sayagues’ script, which slowly reveals that the old man in question is neither harmless, nor especially “innocent.”
Which is why it’s somewhat perplexing to see today’s new trailer for Don’t Breathe 2, which appears to be flipping the most fascinating element of the original script by positioning Lang’s Norman Nordstrom as the protagonist (along with 11-year-old Phoenix, played by Madelyn Grace). Of course, it’s impossible to judge a film based solely on its trailer—and there are clear indications here that the bad guys breaking into Lang’s home this time have a clear view of how legitimately monstrous he is. But it’s nevertheless strange to see the character foregrounded so clearly, and even presented as having something close to low-grade superpowers, shooting dead multiple baddies after feeling the waves they generate by stepping into a puddle of water. (Please also consider this a reminder that Don’t Breathe pitted Lang against just three people, with the cat and mouse game taking up most of its runtime; the relatively small size of its stakes was a major part of the film’s appeal.)
Still: Lang looks as steely and resolved as ever, and, although Álvarez has handed directing duties off to Sayagues, the actual action still looks extremely solid. We might have minor worries that the franchise (such as it is) might be falling under the sway of a First Blood to First Blood Part II tone shift, but if Sam Raimi and company can still produce a thriller half as taut as the original, it’ll still probably be in tense good shape.