Don't Breathe Review
Before this movie started, I caught a trailer for the new "Rings" movie, a film that will revitalize the "Ring" franchise which had two films in 2002 and 2005. The 2002 film is a modern horror classic, the sequel was a load of crap. This new "Rings" movie to me, represents everything wrong with the horror genre. A bunch of young people who can barely act getting scared at a bunch of jump scares and some hermit telling them that they've "opened a door to something terrible!" Is that truly where we are with horror movies right now? It sure seems like it, we have been so conditioned to the mediocrity and blandness of the genre that when something truly awesome like "The Witch" comes along, everybody ignores it.
If "Rings" looks to be everything wrong with the horror genre, then "Don't Breathe" represents what I believe every horror filmmaker should be chasing right now. An ambitious, smart, and edgy horror movie that gives its audience an experience rather than some cheap thrills. "Don't Breathe" has a lot more to it than the commercials would lead you to believe, and if your lucky enough to catch it in theaters, you are in for quite a surprise.
Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) are three Detroit delinquents who spend their days robbing houses for loot. Rocky has a horrible home life. Her father left, her mother blames Rocky, she has gangster boyfriends over at the house and isn't very involved in her children's lives. So Rocky robs houses in order to make enough money to move to California. Its just not enough though. One day, Money gets a tip on a house that may contain three hundred thousand dollars for a settlement involving an blind Iraq veteran (Stephen Lang). Stealing tons of a money from a blind man, seems pretty easy right?
Well of course it isn't going to be easy. When the trio gets into the blind man's house, the blind man hears them break in and the film becomes a cat-and-mouse game. Can the three burglars make it out of the house with the money or their lives? All movie long, the film exploits the familiar house invasion tropes and every time the movie finds a way to shatter them. This blind man isn't who they think he is, and this makes this regular burglary much more dangerous.
The acting by Levy, Minnette and Zovatto is quite impressive. These aren't dumb young characters making (mostly) dumb decisions. Something we see way too often in this genre. These are crafty burglars, clear on the fact that they have been doing this for awhile. They can almost see every angle at play, except they don't know how to react to a dangerous, blind man who just keeps coming like he's Michael Myers. All three young actors bring a rewarding detail to their character work and they get us to care about them, even though they are breaking the law. I have loved Stephen Lang since I saw him playing General Pickett on "Gettysburg" in 1993. I could never fathom why he wasn't a household name, because he should be. After the big punch in 2009, including "Public Enemies," "Avatar" and "Men Who Stare At Goats," he just might be heading in that direction and its about time. Lang does stunning work and when the big twists of his character begin to set in, its unbelievable how great he is. This is a movie that doesn't have a whole lot of dialogue and the actors rely mostly on actions and its still superb.
"Don't Breathe" would also make an awesome double-feature with Netflix's "Hush." Also a home invasion thriller about a deaf woman who has to fight off an assailant in her home.
Its so refreshing to see a horror movie with such a smart script. A horror movie that feels like its about to end, but then just keeps going, keeps racking up the tension until you feel like your heart is about to fall out of your chest. I am praising this big and there is still some character work that doesn't quite work. In some of classic horror films, the characters behave intelligently all running time long, here not so much. But there is so much to appreciate here, that I didn't care about a couple minor character hiccups. I can't forsee how "Don't Breathe" will do at the box office, but I am willing to bet that this is going to be a little horror film that gets a lot people talking and buzzing after this weekend. I bet this will be one that ends up in conversation on several occasions in the future. Young actors who can't act running from nothing, featuring lots of needless gore and nudity don't make a horror movie. Clever characters and storyline go a much longer way, and "Don't Breathe" proves that.
FINAL GRADE: B+