Don’t Breathe (2016)

We open on a wide shot of a neighborhood that’s abandoned, rotten, and forgotten, in the bright sun of daytime. In the middle of the road a man drags an unconscious young woman by her hair… and then we cut to titles; “Don’t Breathe”. After both terrifying and disgusting audiences with his bloody reboot of the cult classic Evil Dead, Fede Alvarez returned to our screens once again to bring us an original tale that would disgust and scare us almost as much as the Evil Dead did (but in very different ways).

Written by Fede Alvarez & Rodo Sayagues and Directed by Fede Alvarez.

Don’t Breathe focuses on a trio of young house burglar’s who target an old man for one last score before they split. The film takes little time to establish the three young adults we’ll be following through the rest of the movie. We see them pull off a clean heist and then leave and we get the tragic backstory of the main character, Rocky, who lives in a shitty home and dreams of taking her sister and getting the hell away. It’s basic, but it gives enough for us to feel sympathetic for her as everything begins to go down. Her cohorts are “cliché gangster douche” and “cliché nice guy who has secret feelings for main girl”. There’s really no hard feelings when something happens to either of them, they’re really just corpse fodder. The douche gets word of a big score and he convinces the other two. The score goes very, very, wrong. It becomes a horror the moment the blind guy turns out to be a lot more adept than a “blind old guy”. The movie slowly descends in to terror as Douche is killed violently with a gunshot to the throat and the other two are forced to survive while they’re hunted down. Rocky discovers a girl chained up in the Blind Man’s basement who had killed his daughter, and it turns out he’s so defensive because the girl was forcefully inseminated by the blind man to have his new daughter. The story is straight forward with a sick and messed up twist that adds to the evil the Blind Man is. While the characters really aren’t much to care about they give you enough that you do genuinely want at least Rocky to escape.

When I think of Stephen Lang I imagine that tough soldier from Avatar or a dude that talks loud and kicks everyone’s ass, so when they originally announced him as the Blind Man in this film I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. What kind of role would he make it? But in truth Lang surpassed my expectations. From what I can find online he says only twelve lines in the entire film but he makes his presence felt with every word and every action. He’s muscular and intimidating but it’s the way that he moves. The Blind Man is quick and calculated and you can see his head shift as he listens to the sounds the burglar’s make in his house. When he speaks you can hear the weight and age and sadness the Blind Man carries, and it makes what he’s doing even sicker. Even when he spouts the line “I’m not a rapist” Lang makes sure you know that this man has become evil. He was a grieving father, once, but now he’s just a monster. Given only a few scenes of backstory and reasons why she’s doing this, Jane Levy as Rocky makes the most of that. She’s in this for her sister and Jane makes sure you can see that Rocky doesn’t WANT to do what her gang is doing, but she NEEDS to. That drive to survival, and conflict about calling the police and losing the money, gives Rocky depth and Jane Levy chances to show off her range, and she does damn well at making sure Rocky isn’t a one-dimensional character. Dylan Minette plays the “nice guy” well, and he puts enough heart in to the character that you feel genuinely sorry when he gets killed. The other character, the Douche, isn’t memorable and when he’s in the scene it just plays a guy you’d like to punch. He’s the catalyst that gets them there and he does that fine.

Fede Alvarez’s directing in the Evil Dead impressed me, and he continues this streak with Don’t Breathe. His camera angles are sharp and the frames always feel square with what’s happening. He moves the camera with such smoothness that it never feels jolting or takes you out of the piece. Early on in the film when the trio first breaks in to the blind mans house Alvarez uses a gorgeous one-shot to follow them as they begin to search for the vault. He uses sound just as much as the movement, heightening the noises that the Blind Man would focus on. He would use the camera much like the Blind Man’s senses and focus in on that noise to add tension as the things he can use to track them adds up. The colors are vibrant and beautiful and it makes for an extremely sharp picture that isn’t bad to look at, and he knows when to take away color. The night-vision scene shot in black and white was breathtaking and you felt the intensity and you felt like you were right there crawling along with them. When you could see Rocky approaching the Blind Man when she couldn’t see, all I could do was hold my breath and dread what would happen. The score wasn’t iconic but it was memorable. Using a consistent beat that would fade and come as things happened it added tension in moments and knew when to be silent. What gets lost in the character department is easily found in the masterful directing and editing.

Don’t Breathe is another spectacular film by Alvarez. While it doesn’t have the sense of dread and terror that Evil Dead had, it makes sure to replace it with a sense of unease and tension that builds up as Rocky is forced to endure the demented Blind Man. If you’re a fan of films filled with good tension and some really fantastic directing, be sure to check out Don’t Breathe!

So, have you seen Don’t Breathe? How does it compare to Evil Dead for you? As always make sure to leave any new Horror movie suggestions in the comments and I’ll see you for the next review!

Stay scary, everyone!

 

 

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