Director: Fede Alvarez
Writers: Fede Alvarez & Rodo Sayagues
Cast: Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, Emma Bercovici, and Stephen Lang
Synopsis: A group of friends break into the house of a wealthy blind man, thinking they’ll get away with the perfect heist. They’re wrong.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
I had the pleasure of watching Don’t Breathe early at the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival last week with director Fede Alvarez and Stephen Lang himself doing a Q&A afterwards. So I’ve been sitting on this review since then, and while you think the trailer gives too much away, believe me, it doesn’t. Don’t Breathe is much more than a basic home invasion gone wrong film, and is filled with great moments and a great performance by Stephen Lang.
Don’t Breathe follows three thieves in Rocky (Levy), Alex (Minnette), and Money (Zovatto) who are all looking for the “big one” so they can get out of Detroit for better lives. So when Money gets a big scoop that a house has a big payday, they jump at the opportunity. They soon find out that the house belongs to a blind man, played by Stephen Lang, they have their doubts, but their desire to leave – and Money’s pressure – gets them to agree. However, once inside they find out that The Blind Man, never given a real name, is a lot more dangerous than they thought.
Like I mentioned, the film is a lot more than a simple home invasion gone wrong. The film is all about survival, and not just the characters, but us the audience too. The sound design in this film, is fantastic and really puts you in the house and situations that Alex and Rocky find themselves in (we already know that Money dies from the trailers so it’s not a spoiler). Silence in horror films usually means something is going to pop out at you, and while there are some jump scares in Don’t Breathe, they are effective here because it suits the film, and more importantly, they work strongly. Also, the production design really set the movie apart too. The film looks like a horror house, but again, sets the mood. But it feels like a horror house because The Blind Man moves throughout it so smoothly, you feel like he’s going to jump out of any room at any moment.
When it comes to the cast, they really played it off well. Jane Levy completely sells us that she’s scared as hell every time the camera is on her. This is also her second time working with director Fede Alvarez – the first being the Evil Dead remake – and you’ll feel sorry for her, character and personally, for sure. She also has a nice arch in the film, as she doesn’t just want to leave Detroit, she wants to leave her crappy mother and take her little sister with her. Dylan Minnette, who has impressed me lately with the roles he’s done, is pretty good here too as Alex. Alex plays a big role in the group, and clearly has a thing for Rocky, but since she’s with Money, things are little complicated.
Minnette and Levy have great chemistry together, but their individual stories are never fully fleshed out which leaves a bit of a void in the film, but once the film gets into the house and things go crazy, you kind of forget about all that.
However the highlight here is Stephen Lang as The Blind Man. Lang is seriously frightening here. He’s in great shape and the way he moves through the house hunting down his intruders is worth watching alone. The real cool thing is that Lang does most of his acting through body language, as he hardly has any lines until the last act of the film. Lang mentioned during the Q&A, the house is his domain and he’s going to defend his home from anyone, and that is exactly what he does. Lang’s performance is also helped by the great cinematography by Pedro Luque and direction by Alvarez.
A great little scene, which is in all the ads, is the total darkness scene. Alvarez said he wasn’t sure if the scene would even work, but the finish scene was great to see play out in full. There’s also a nice continuous one take scene that flows perfectly. Then there’s the scene. Believe me, if you watch the movie you will automatically know what I’m talking about, and if you already watched it, then you know what that scene was, so don’t spoil it for anyone.
All in all, Don’t Breathe has a lot more going on than the trailers and ads have you believe. The film works because of the cast, especially Stephen Lang, and the production design. Don’t Breathe is an intense and suspense-filled thriller that never lets you go once they enter the house. Also, don’t mess with blind people, because you never know if they will jack you up.
4 out of 5