Hot Take: Vicious and occasionally terrifying. Don’t Breathe goes places you don’t expect it to. Not because it’s surprising but because, well, who does that with a turkey baster?
Don’t Breathe is one of those rare horror movies that is about as scary as you expect it to be and more terrifying to think about even though it is incredibly unlikely you or I will ever find ourselves in the predicament the three main characters find themselves in. The premise is simple: Three young hoodlums who rob houses for a living in Detroit look for a big score and bite off more than they bargain for when they decide to rob a blind man’s house who is supposedly sitting on over $300,000. Other than the first 10 minutes or so, this is the movie. For roughly 78 minutes, we watch these three square off with the Blind Man (Stephen Lang) as they get in to his house and then try desperately to get out before he takes them out.
The youth-filled trio of actors are serviceable in their roles. Jane Levy plays Rocky who is the only thing close to a multi-dimensional character. She has a kid and a legitimate motive for the crime spree as she wants desperately to give her daughter (and herself) a better life. Dylan Minnette plays Alex who provides the trio access to the homes as his dad’s home security company has the keys and the codes to allow them to break in undetected. Alex’s motive is Rocky. He’s got a not-so-secret crush on her. Minnette’s recent resume includes Goosebumps which means this isn’t the first time we’ve seen him on the run. Daniel Zovatto rounds out the trio as Money, Rocky’s boyfriend, Alex’s friend and just a genuine street thug who is in it for the thrill as much as he is the money. If you haven’t seen the trailer, this will come as a spoiler (so stop reading now) but Zovatto is the sacrificial lamb of the group and not shockingly, the one with the least depth.
Stephen Lang as The Blind Man carries the film. His menacing presence and sadistic cruelty deliver a more than competent antagonist. Since his role as the villain in 2009’s Avatar, Lang hasn’t done anything of great consequence and will likely be tied to that franchise as it Avatar 2-5 will be released from 2017 to 2023. Maybe he’ll find time to make a sequel to Don’t Breathe somewhere in there (since it’s inevitable considering the box office success the movie has experienced).
Filmmaker Fede Alvarez is responsible for the crude, cruel, dark and sadistic turn the movie takes in its final moments and takes a very simple, straightforward thriller and tosses a bucket of sick and twisted that makes the viewing experience something completely different. Alvarez has a knack for the sick and twisted as he was the one responsible for the remake of Evil Dead in 2013 which also featured Levy. Give Alvarez credit as there was no need to take the movie where he took it for it to work and it was a huge risk that is sure to turn off some of the audience. However, it’s definitely one that you’ll talk about afterward.
For the horror genre, the 2016 movie season has been rough. Outside of The Witch and Green Room (and maybe 10 Cloverfield Lane if you count that as horror), the genre has been severely lacking. With the addition of Don’t Breathe, the back half of the year at least has one gem that’ll get your heart racing. The only downside is there’s really nothing to fear unless you plan on breaking into houses in the near future which makes it hard to walk in the shoes of the main characters even if you wanted to.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- 100% Genuine Jump Scares
One of the most annoying thing about horror-thrillers are the unnecessary jump scares. You know the ones. You’re watching the movie, there’s a loud noise and jarring camera movement and you jump! Then a cat runs around the corner and you laugh with your friends as you were scared for no reason. There’s none of that in Don’t Breathe but there are a couple of mood-setting jump scares to keep you on your toes.
There’s nothing to say you should or shouldn’t be rooting for the main characters to make it out alive. They don’t have a ton of redeeming qualities and some audience members will likely be rooting for them to not survive.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Did It Really Have to Go There?
If you watch Don’t Breathe, the last 20 minutes of the film might have you asking that question. It’s hard to say whether or not it was necessary but it’s definitely something to talk about.