Review: Don't Breathe
This review originally ran as part of our Comic-Con 2016 coverage
PLOT: Three friends break into the home of a wealthy blind man with plans for an easy payday. They soon discover that the mysterious man is far more capable - and deadly - than they had anticipated.
REVIEW: When it comes to 2016 blockbusters, it’s safe to say that we’ve had an underwhelming year. However, when it comes to horror, it’s been perhaps one of the strongest years we’ve had in quite some time. Thankfully it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Fede Alvarez’ follow-up to EVIL DEAD is something that caught my attention in a big way. We’ve seen this type of film before with characters trapped in a closed off space, but that is only the beginning for this ridiculously suspenseful thriller. DON’T BREATHE is an unexpected surprise, featuring one of the year’s most exciting genre characters courtesy of Stephen Lang as The Blind Man.
Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) have found a way to make money to survive; they rob houses in hopes of finding a payoff. When Money gets word that a man (Stephen Lang) living in a rundown area of Detroit keeps a large sum of money - a settlement he won after his daughter was killed - he convinces them to stake it out. Once they arrive and break in, they discover that this frail older gentleman is far from weak. Soon the stranger takes matters into his own hands and turns the tables on the would be robbers. Trapped inside, they find that The Blind Man has a few terrifying secrets which they’ve unwittingly stumbled upon.
Fede Alvarez has once again put together an intense thrill ride of a movie. From the very first image we get a sense of dread that never lets up. After a brief introduction to the characters, we are placed in a world that is surprisingly layered. It’s tricky to create sympathetic characters that happen to be small time criminals. Yet both Levy’s Rocky and Minnette’s Alex are able to rise above their actions. Even with Zovatto’s Money, a bit of a sleazy character, he rises above just being a one note stereotype. If you aren’t rooting for them in the beginning, the way Alvarez and co-writer Rodo Sayagues turn the tables, it's a believable transition.
The stand-out of course is Lang. Coming off his impressive turn in the terrific BAND OF ROBBERS, the actor gives a fantastic performance. As we learn more about the mysterious Blind Man, he becomes far more terrifying. As monstrous as he gets, there are moments of fear that make him far more interesting. At one point we discover a very disturbing secret about him, which is perhaps one of the most chilling and uncomfortable moments I’ve witnessed in a long while. At the same time, you can’t help but to find his desperation a little heartbreaking. Lang delivers an exceptionally frightening portrayal of a desperate man.
The most important factor is Alvarez himself. The filmmaker creates a claustrophobic sense of terror. From the way he moves the camera throughout the house, to the creepy revelations, he turns what could have been a simple story into an unnerving jolt of surprises throughout. DON’T BREATHE pieces itself together in an unexpected way and it is all the better for it. In one effective sequence, Rocky and Alex find themselves facing the darkness while running from a shadowed assailant. For some of this, the actors were required to actually be in the dark, which adds a level of realism to the scene.
Fede Alvarez has proven to be a talented and exciting new vision in horror. He crafts lean - this one a brisk 88 minutes - and mean flicks. However, this time around he delivers a brutal flick without being bloody or gruesome, but it didn’t need it. Jane Levy, who also starred in EVIL DEAD, proves to be one hell of a solid genre talent, and Dylan Minnette and Daniel Zovatto are also strong. And then there is Lang, the man is outstanding. DON’T BREATHE works on a primal level with a few shocking surprises along the way.