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.
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I hope to get out and see this one. I had been ill since mid-July but I’m doing better now and think I can venture out. I saw the trailer and it looks tense.
Sorry to hear that, man. But to be honest, you haven’t missed that much this summer. Meh stuff 😦
I’d check this one out. Only thing is the trailer does show many of the good bits.
Even the trailer of this was too scary for me.
No Jay! If I can handle it, you can. I think you watched Green Room? I haven’t but I’d wager that is probably scarier than this.
I really had a good time with this one. I too wished the characters weren’t so unlikable but in a way that added aN interesting spin on things. Who do we ultimately feel bad for, a trio of small-time crooks or an unstable home owner? Perhaps the end result doesn’t really resolve that question but I was surprised that I did have so much fun with a movie that basically didn’t have one “good guy” in it.
Good point Tom. This was really entertaining, probably on par with 10 Cloverfield Lane, and I might give the rewatchability edge to Don’t Breathe. Flirted with an A- for a while.
Just wish we had a stronger ending and less “Hollywoodness” in the final act but whatever. This was fun, most importantly.
We can always rely on horror to deliver that occasional cracker and I’m glad to read Don’t Breathe delivers!
It does, Mark! Would love to hear your take.
“The true ending, after a few false ones, is functional but not as strong as what leads up to it.”
That was my biggest problem with the movie, especially those false ones that got repetitive. Overall a great movie though, and yet another solid “claustrophobic thriller” type this year.
We’re in agreement, the end did get repetitive and the decisions on both ends seemed a little questionable. But the first two thirds are awesome and white-knuckled.