Seeing is overrated anyways, right? Three teens (who look more like young adults?) in Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette), and Money (Daniel Zovatto), live in the struggle that is Michigan, presumably Detroit. The three pull off minor robbery jobs that net them a little cash, but nothing that is life-changing. All want to get out of their current situations.
Money catches wind that a nearby house in a deserted neighborhood is sitting on at least 300K. The best part is that the owner of the house is a Blind Man (Stephen Lang), who surely cannot be that much of a threat despite being an Army veteran, right? Wrong.
As yours truly has stated before, 2016 at the movie theater has been a pretty sizable disappointment, especially this summer. But if there is one genre that has actually impressed, it is that of the small budget thriller/horror one. Don’t Breathe, Fede Alvarez’s latest after the Evil Dead remake, is efficient, no frills, and tight thrills. Money well spent.
I have never seen Alvarez’s take on Evil Dead, mainly because I can get grossed out on non-stop gore and I don’t always feel that equates to horror. That is one of the reasons I dreaded seeing Don’t Breathe. Thankfully, while there are well-placed scenes of brutality when needed, a showcase of guts isn’t the focus.
Much like 10 Cloverfield Lane, Alvarez builds tension all in one place, and hardly ever leaves it. There is an awesome lights out sequence in the film, but the best scene may be the initial break-in of the marked house, possibly done all in one take that lets the audience in on some notable hotspots of the home’s geography. The result is a sustained claustrophobia that crescendos and decrescendos when it needs to, aided by a score from composer Roque Baños that is subtle. It is used perfectly along with the silence and “Don’t Breathe” aspect of the production.
Alvarez not only directs, but co-writes Don’t Breathe with frequent script collaborator Rodo Sayagues. What they’ve done here is simple stuff, which isn’t a bad thing. They don’t take long to get things going. Attempts to provide sympathy for a few characters falls a little short—this, in my view, is very much bad people squaring off against a menace. Again, still entertaining, though.
As for the “shocking” twist, no spoilers here. All that will be said is that when the reveal is delivered, it is certainly unforeseen but possibly unneeded as well and may exist for shocks sake. The true ending, after a few false ones, is functional but not as strong as what leads up to it. And yours truly’s last opines about the ending without hopefully alluding too much to anything particular is that there is a shocking lack of “finishing the job” across the board for these characters. They’ve got to this point, why not just make sure that things are taken care of?
The main cast is small, but good. Daniel Zovatto’s character is annoying, but it’s probably not too much of a spoiler to say he doesn’t have much screentime. Jane Levy’s Rocky is a sound female protagonist and sells terror well; just wish that I felt more about her plight. Even with minimal attention to his, Dylan Minnette’s character is the one I connected with most. More efforts to develop his character would have been great. At 19, he’s got a bright future. Stephen Lang by far steals the show, however. He’s comparable to John Goodman’s role in the aforementioned Cloverfield movie, with the only differences being his minimal dialog and less grey shades. Although unlikely, it is possible that The Blind Man role could be the one people associate Lang with the most, even moreso than the Colonel in Avatar.
More of a thriller in a horror slipcover than an all-out horror, Don’t Breathe still provides substantial scares and palpable tension. If the goal is to entertain, Alvarez and company simple vision has done so.
Photo credits go to RottenTomatoes.com, ew.com, and hypebeast.com.
Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson