Don’t Breathe (2016)
Don’t Breathe follows three teenagers as they commit a series of home burglaries around Detroit. The trio gets a tip that an Army veteran living in a particularly bad neighborhood may have $300,000 hidden away in his home. After discovering that the vet is blind, they assume this will be an easy heist. Once inside the house, things begin to go very wrong. The kids soon realize that they have made a dangerous mistake.
Director Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead) has constructed an uneasy and compelling horror film. As he revealed in numerous interviews, he purposely spun certain conventions to give the picture a different flavor. For instance, most home invasion films tell the story from the point of view of the characters in the home. Don’t Breathe presents the story from the POV of the invaders. This is enough of a tweak to add value to an old premise.
The characters are nuanced and interesting. For example, “Rocky” (Jane Levy) is involved with the robberies in order to accumulate enough money to move her and her younger sister to California to remove her from a bad home life. I’m always fascinated by characters who do bad things for altruistic reasons.
Stephen Lang turns in a terrific performance as “The Blind Man.” He seamlessly morphs from sympathetic to “bad ass” to terrifying throughout the 88 minutes of the film. The 64-year old actor is, clearly, physically imposing. But he also has a creepy, intimidating aura that is required of the role.
One tiny complaint is that The Blind Man’s (other) senses come and go as dictated by the plot. There are times that he doesn’t hear or smell one of the invaders when he absolutely would have because of their proximity to him.
Don’t Breathe is pleasantly unexpected. It delivers an interesting plot, satisfying performances, and tons of scares. The viewer’s perception of who the hero and villain are depends specifically on the point in the story that they are watching. It keeps the audience on the hook until the final scene. This is a great sophomore effort by Alvarez. It is well worth checking out in theaters.
-Zep the Bear