Horror was one genre from last year that I didn’t get many chances to reviews movies from. It can be hit or miss as to whether they get widespread distributions, and then of course the case where I just wasn’t able to catch them in the theatre. But one example “Don’t Breathe” got its home release this week, and it has quite a bit of praise running behind it too.
Three house burglers with the odd morals of never stealing cash, take on one last job which can pay for them to make their dreams come through. Rocky (Jane Levy) wishes to leave her life behind and take begin anew in California. Along with Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Danny Zovatto) they take on the task of breaking into an old, blind Veteran’s home to steal a large sum of money he apparently has. But their victim quickly becomes their enemy, and they become trapped within his home, which hides far more than a supposed fortune.
Unlike the recent trend to create Horror movies in a nostalgic light, this one doesn’t take that path. Instead it is clearly set from the start to be in modern-day, but with the “Blind Man” (played by Steven Lang) as a more intelligent form of the classic slashers. He may appear feeble and relying on his other senses, but his training and sesnitive sound detection makes the set up far more tense.
The initial plot development for the main three characters is easy to cast aside, it doesn’t add a whole lot of emotional ties for the audience to them when their motivations are as simple as money. Rocky at least has a little going on for her motivations, as well as having a few lines that she doesn’t cross. Alex and Money are the bros, with the typical stereotypes of one being a bit wimpy while the other is macho, and both having interest in the woman. They quite often provide the weak links to the story as a whole, which I’ll get into later.
Back to The Blind Man, and I think Lang does a very good job at this role. He is simple enough to keep the mystery alive, but also threatening enough to maintain tension. It doesn’t take long at all before the image of him being defenceless is shattered completely, and gets the pace going. As things go on he is given a bit more complexity to his character, things from the past and the like which make him more than just a rampaging brute. Don’t expect much beyond that, but the performance is good enough to satisfy Slasher movie fans for sure.
Jane Levy gives the most balanced performance and lends to being the audience avatar. Her movements through the story are the most interesting, with Alex being the poorest. Every time when silence was needed and he spoke with that audible whispers and heavy breathing, I kept wondering how on Earth this moran wasn’t dead already. It really got on my nerves from time to time, especially when even Rocky is telling him to shut up. Money is performed well for the part he plays, though as I said, even if it is a bit of a stereotype.
The scares are relatively few, but work in their own way when implemented. It is the tension that works exceptionally well however. Having The Blind Man within touching distance of the three in times where total silence was the factor between life and death was a cool aspect. Using minimal lighting also helps to extenuate the shadows and keep you casting glances at what could be in the corners. Some of the movements made make the house feel like some crazy slide park with areas connected together, but I was willing to let most of them pass by without too much disapproval. The blood and gore is provided in small amounts, but shocking enough to get you feeling uncomfortable. I liked too how the end played out, where it honestly did have me guessing at if any survivor would make it. I thought they were telegraphing something else, but then they keep running.
Even though I had my issues with things such as the character details, depth of emotional connections, and a few technical bits here and there, I think “Don’t Breathe” makes it though to be a solid horror film. The emphasis on sound as the real enemy to the burglers was an interesting angle to start with, and the strong villain for the piece sets the price for mistakes high. It won’t have the proper innovation or memorable pieces to achieve genuine cult status like “The Babadook”, but you won’t be surprised to see this pop up on many people’s favourite lists for horror in 2016.
If you’re the kind that’s in for a few scares tonight and see a Sony release that actually punches above its weight, then here is a good place to look.
Thanks for reading!