Don’t Breathe, 2016.
Directed by Fede Alvarez.
Starring Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto and Stephen Lang.
A trio of reckless thieves breaks into the house of a wealthy blind man, thinking they’ll get away with the perfect heist. They’re wrong.
Sometimes the most simple premise yields the most unforgettable and most entertaining results, and such is the case with Fede Alvarez’s follow up to his gore-tastic Evil Dead remake, Don’t Breathe. A bunch of young punks from the rundown streets of the nastier parts of Detroit trying to rob a retired blind Army veteran in his 80s sounds awesome admittedly, but the kind of awesome that you turn on while randomly surfing Netflix at 4 AM looking for something fun/mindless to watch. Rest assured, Don’t Breathe is so much more than that, taking a basic plot and injecting it with pitch perfect execution to shock audiences with suspense leaving them well… breathless.
Originally, I was not going to mention this at all in my review, but seeing as every TV spot is now advertising that there is a major twist, let me tell you that it is not only something you will most likely never see coming (the beauty of it is that the twist also makes perfect sense), but it will disturb and terrify. When making Evil Dead Alvarez went all out in the blood and gore department to ensure that his final product would be seared into the minds of his audience forever, but the shock in Don’t Breathe doesn’t come from dumping gallons of blood up on the screen, instead telling a story that is all sorts of fucked up.
Stephen Lang is also highly intimidating presence that really sells being blind to almost unreal levels of perfection. Whether it is the expressions in his eyes, him sniffing out the locations of the predators who have become the prey, or making gentle movements with his body to gain bearings on exactly where he is in his household, it’s all masterful stuff. Even his jolt reactions to the slightest bit of noise playing up his heightened sense of hearing is just nailed. It truly is a shame that as the year winds down and the Academy begins handing out their Oscar nominations, Stephen Lang’s performance won’t even be looked at because the film is essentially a horror film with little dramatic substance. He deserves recognition for basically taking the part of Michael Myers, and turning him into a real-life human monster without regenerative powers or any enhancements. Even the very few lines of dialogue he has all make an impact and will send chills down your spine.
Here’s what makes Don’t Breathe truly amazing however, all of the characters (all three home invaders and the blind man) are presented in moral shades of gray. The three burglars all vary in levels of horribleness, while the blind man has his own skeletons in his closet. Alvarez chooses to reveal this at just the right moment too, completely flipping our own character alliances back and forth to the point where honestly, the movie just becomes an amusement park thrill ride. Yes, you’re invested in all of the characters to a degree, but at the same time audiences will be just sitting there with bated breath anxious to see what happens next.
And let me tell you, the movie has about five different climaxes. One could argue that the concept gets stretched out a bit too long (even though the movie is only 88 minutes long), but Alvarez justifies everything by making each scene somehow better than the last. At times it feels like a movie that keeps going and going, and even though it feels like it should be finally wrapping up, it’s impossible to care; you don’t want the movie to end because watching it is so fun.
Surprisingly, 2016 has been a very strong year for mainstream horror films (usually I’m out here handing out one star reviews left and right), but this year… man there are some heavy hitters. Out of the 104 films I have seen so far this year at the time of this writing, two of the films in my top 10 are horror films, and Don’t Breathe is one of them. Furthermore, Fede Alvarez has now entered ‘drop everything you’re doing when he has a movie coming out and go see it ASAP’ status.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★