A STARTLING, CHILLING, AND WELL EXECUTED NEW TAKE ON THE HOME INVASION GENRE AS WELL AS CLASSIC HORROR!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** ½ out of 4
SCREEN GEMS AND STAGE 6 FILMS
It’s burglars VS blind in Don’t Breathe
2016 has been a very strong year for horror movies, we had The Conjuring 2, The Purge: Election Year, and Lights Out, all of which were well received upon release. Now director, Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead (2013)) and producer, Sam Raimi (Evil Dead franchise, Darkman, Spider-Man trilogy) brings a refreshingly frightening take on the Home Invasion genre with Don’t Breathe.
Why do I consider this to be a refreshing home invasion movie? Well, most movies in this type of genre usually have the invaders be the bad guys and the person or people who live in the home are the good guys. Here, it’s the other way around, our protagonists are burglars who break into this blind old man’s house to get money but the blind man has a few dark secrets lurking in his home.
The film brilliantly executes home invasion horror, without a high budget, lots of camera work, lighting, and tone feel like an old scary movie from the 80s, and when the blind man makes the house go dark, it’s very reminiscent of low budget horror movies like The Blair Witch Project. It’s one of those movies that had me startled, chilled, and hooked on the movie from beginning to end.
The movie follows a group of Detroit delinquents named Rocky (Jane Levy-Suburgatory, Evil Dead, Frank and Cindy), Alex (Dylan Minnette-Lost, Awake, Goosebumps), and Money (Daniel Zovatto-Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Revenge, Fear The Walking Dead) who make a living by breaking into people’s houses that are secured by Alex’s father’s security system and selling the items they stole. The trio soon realizes that an old blind Army veteran known as The Blind Man (Stephen Lang-Tombstone, The Men Who Stare At Goats, Avatar) who lives in an abandoned Detroit neighborhood has $300,000 in cash locked in a safe in his home.
Supposedly the money was given to The Blind Man as a settlement after a young woman killed his daughter in a car accident. So Rocky, Alex, and Money decide to break into his house and steal the $300,000 after staking it out and realizing that the man is blind, should be easy…right? Wrong!
The trio gets locked in his house and The Blind Man’s got a few tricks up his sleeve and what lies inside his home is a dark secret about how he coped with the loss of his daughter, and it ain’t pretty. Outsmarting his dog, The Blind Man as he attempts to kill them, and the dark itself, Rocky, Alex, and Money are going to have to figure a way out of his house if they’re going to survive, otherwise they’ll lose their breath.
Overall, Don’t Breathe is a tense, chilling, and intelligent scary movie, it doesn’t rely on cheap scares or slasher style gore, but rather quiet build-up to the big scares, and the majority of them leave an impact. I’m serious, I heard gasping in the theater when I was watching this film and I love hearing the audience’s reactions to horror movies, especially if it’s a horror movie done very well, and this certainly is one of those movies.
Most of the terror comes from Stephen Lang’s amazing performance as The Blind Man, I mean, damn, this guy is absolutely terrifying and to think this is the same actor who played the Colonel in Avatar. Personally his performance in this is a lot more intimidating than his Avatar role.
Obviously he can’t see but the way he moves almost feels like he has superhuman sight, almost like the Marvel superhero, Daredevil, if Daredevil was a homicidal maniac. Just the way he moves, his actions, and how he speaks sent chills down my spine in the cinema.
Besides Lang, the three burglars are developed well too, despite slightly being horror movie stereotypes, I cared for these kids and I wanted to know what was going to happen to them, something I think a lot of modern horror movies miss very often, I think a horror movie will get better scares if you develop the characters very well prior to the shock gore and suspense, that way the movie will get more of a reaction from the audience.
And after all the Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and God knows how many Final Destination, Saw, and Paranormal Activity sequels that come out, I’d be down for this movie to begin a new horror franchise. The film does end on a cliffhanger and I think if the filmmakers and studio know what they’re doing, this could become the next big horror franchise, as long as they keep giving us something new with this genre.
Fortunately, this movie executes its terror perfectly, and it’s currently my favorite horror movie of the year, better than The Conjuring 2, better than The Purge: Election Year, and better than Lights Out. It’s a chilling mix of character, tension, and terror that I can go ahead and recommend to any horror nut…just remember, Don’t Breathe!