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You can exhale now. Don’t Breathe 2 is now in theaters, and the sequel to the popular 2016 film is both a reflection of the first as well as its own experience.
“There are things from the first movie that I could play with,” Don’t Breathe 2 director Rodo Sayagues tells SYFY WIRE. “There are things that [Fede Álvarez, Don’t Breathe co-creator and director of the first film,] did so well. He created the universe — the look, the feel, the tone, and the characters. They were tools that we can play with in this movie, and then build on top of that and add a bigger story and further develop the characters.”
While the sequel is coming five years after the first movie, the Don’t Breathe creators knew early on they wanted to return to the universe they created and revisit the baddest bad guy of the first film, Norman Nordstrom (Stephen Lang). Sayagues and Álvarez chatted with SYFY WIRE and spilled some insights about Don’t Breathe 2. Read on to find out why they decided to bring back Stephen Lang’s formidable character, what memorable shot took days to get just right, and where the franchise might go in the future.
Warning! There are spoilers for the first movie, Don’t Breathe, below.
“We wanted to tell more stories in this world,” Álvarez says. “But when the first movie has this villain who goes to crazy extents to get what he wants, and gets away with what he wants… we thought if we told another story, usually people want to know — what I want to know as an audience member — is if justice is going to be served. Is he ever going to pay for the things he did in the past, but even more importantly, for someone that never saw himself as a bad guy — is he ever going to come to terms with who he really is?”
Who Norman Nordstrom really is, is a guy who thinks it’s a good idea to violently murder those who break into his house and, oh yeah, keep a woman locked in a basement and forcibly impregnate them with a turkey baster.
For the second movie, the question on the creators' minds was whether Norman would ever face the horrors he’s done. “We needed to craft a story that will force him to take that journey and see himself for who he truly is,” Álvarez explains. “I think that transcends heroes, villains, bad guys, it doesn’t matter. That’s a human story for anybody — to dare to look inside…and open that door and find out who you truly are.”
Jumping off that idea, Álvarez and Sayagues decided to have Don’t Breathe 2 start out with Norman getting what he wanted in the first film. “Right away we came up with the idea that we're going to give Norman a chance to be a father again,” Sayagues shares. That daughter is a young girl named Phoenix (Madelyn Grace), who is the heart of the movie.
Phoenix not only gives Norman someone to protect, she also gives the audience someone to root for. “We knew that she would be a life force in the movie,” Sayagues says. “I like to think of her as a bonsai tree that wants to grow, but then this guy keeps trimming it down and doesn't let it grow. But that lifeforce is so powerful that eventually she's going to break free and just go out and expand and grow.”
Norman has also trained Phoenix how to protect herself, something that comes in handy when a mysterious group of perpetrators enters their home. In what is arguably the most memorable scene in the movie, we follow Phoenix as she hides from the invaders. The camera then veers off at breathtaking angles, showing us other parts of the house and also mirroring a similar scene from the first movie.
Getting that six-minute sequence together was no easy feat. “That was very challenging, and hard to get done. It took weeks to prep in several days to shoot, but it was a lot of fun to do as well,” Sayagues says, adding that the crew did 25 takes for the scene rather than the usual three or four. “Once you got it, it was very rewarding because it elevates and amplifies the intensity and the suspense.”
Without getting into spoilers, Don’t Breathe 2 is definitely full of suspense and surprises. The creators hope, however, that this sequel isn’t the last story they tell in this universe. “We definitely have ideas of different points of entry to this story that we would love to explore, absolutely,” Álvarez says.
As for what those potential new points of entry are, the two are keeping things close to their chests. “We are the only ones that know where this story's going to go,” says Álvarez. “We really try to make the stories as surprising as they can be, and original as they can be...hopefully soon we will be able to show you — hopefully not in five years, but sooner we can show you another movie in this world.”
Don’t Breathe 2 is now in theaters.