Robbing a blind man is messed up in more than one way

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment; Rocky (Jane Levy) checks to make sure she is clear of her unseeing enemy (Stephen Lang) in Fede Alvarez’s ‘Don’t Breathe’

Don’t Breathe

***/****

By Jason Wiese

The home invasion thriller is a horror subgenre so overdone that the obvious twist would be to make the victim of the intrusion the source of the film’s real terror. Intriguing as that is, it is still a twist so predictable that it would take a filmmaker with the skill and vision necessary to make a familiar idea feel fresh.

Enter director Fede Alvarez, who, in 2013, proved to be one of the most promising talents in the horror genre with a remake of the 1981 cult classic The Evil Dead that was a much grander and more horrifying experience than it deserved to be. With Don’t Breathe, Alvarez and his Evil Dead co-writer Rodo Sayagues once again take an idea that sounds destined to fail and prove us wrong by trapping us in the dark, where The Blind Man is king.

The film centers on a trio of petty thieves in their twenties who all have unique motivation for their crimes. Rocky (Jane Levy, yet another Evil Dead veteran whose stunning performance was that film’s highlight) is an independent soul who wants to get out of Detroit. Money (Daniel Zovatto) is an irritating rebel who steals to satisfy his sociopathic tendencies. Alex (Dylan Minnette) is a young expert in security who tags along mainly due to his fancy for Rocky. When they receive a tip that a local blind war veteran (Stephen Lang) is sitting on a decent fortune, they predict it to be the score of their dreams. Instead, they slip right into a living nightmare.

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment; Alex (Minette) obeys the film’s title to avoid The Blind Man’s (Lang) detection in ‘Don’t Breathe’

As the title suggests, the thieves must try to not make any sound, including breathing, to avoid being detected by their unseeing enemy. This makes for many quiet moments, at which points the tension is at its highest. Lang, an actor who has made a decent living playing brooding tough guys such as Colonel Miles Quaritch in James Cameron’s Avatar, plays his most brooding and resilient character yet, flooding the screen with his fearsomeness in every frame he enters. Watching the characters silently scurry away from the unsuspecting villain, through top notch cinematography, is irresistibly unnerving until the suspenseful narrative inevitably grows tiresome. Fortunately, Alvarez knows how to keep a movie fresh.

Don’t Breathe never relies on the same gimmick twice to drive the plot. As the story continues, it keeps reinventing itself with new twists that make it better as it goes along. It never grows to be too gory nor do any implausible supernatural elements fall into play, but those pining for some satisfyingly disturbing content shall be disturbingly satisfied.

The film is yet another satisfying horror film in a year that has seen more than one success in the genre, a rare occasion in recent cinema. It falls short from a relentlessly terrifying and intense experience due mostly to moments of stupidity from the film’s already unlikable “heroes” that temporarily take you out of the moment, but you will be obeying the film’s title the entire time.

Yet, as much as I enjoyed Don’t Breathe, it also left me wanting more. As a fan of Alvarez’s Evil Dead remake (if you could not tell already) I want to see more beautifully deranged images, more unflinching carnage and more character driven emotional trauma. This was a good follow-up, Alvarez, but show me your worst…

Published on Newstime and The Lincoln County Journal Friday, Aug. 26, 2016

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