‘Don’t Breathe’ Review

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Don’t Breathe

4 out of 5

‘It Follows’ Review

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Dir: David Robert Mitchell

Writer(s): David Robert Mitchell

Cast: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Lili Sepe, Olivia Luccardi, Daniel Zovatto, and Jake Weary

Synopsis: After a young girl gets involved in a sexual confrontation, she is followed by an unknown force.

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

You rarely see horror film reviews here because for some reason I have a bit of a hard time reviewing them. It’s not because I don’t like horror films – because I do – but there is something trying to tell people how the film works without giving away how it works and giving away an experience. That couldn’t be even more true with It Follows. So here’s the best I can do with it.

 

It Follows stars Maika Monroe as Jay, who after a date with Hugh (Weary) ends up sleeping with him and instead of the two becoming closer, Hugh chloroforms her, bounds her to chair and says that “It” will come after her and kill her unless she passes it on to someone else. What follows is an eerie, slow burn film filled with tension and a retro look and feel of a horror film.

 

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I thought about not review It Follows only because I didn’t see how I can actually review it without giving away some of the things in the film. Also, the film is getting a ton of attention from the horror community and some even calling it the best horror film in years (which the statement itself loses its appeal after being overused every week for a new film). I personally knew very little about the film, I knew it was out there and sort of new the premise, but didn’t see a trailer or knew who was in it. But, now the film is getting more attention as the film is set for a bigger release after it’s impressive limited release box office numbers. I can attest to that since my screening was almost packed.

 

Back to the film, director David Robert Mitchell tries to give the film a timeless essence, but things like cell phones, the internet and social media is referenced here and there. Even one of the characters, Yara (Luccardi), has a weird e-reader. However, Mitchell wants the film to the timeless feel over all of that as Jay’s sister Kelly (Sepe), Yara, and Paul (Gilchrist) are seen watching black and white movies on their old school TV. However, it doesn’t really matter and the timeless issue doesn’t get in the way in the film overall.

 

Also, Mitchell gives the film a very retro 80s feel. The film has beautiful cinematography, shots that zoom in and out of an actor or thing, and a score that can come straight from an 80s film. Honestly, after watching the film all I could think about is if this came out during the actual 80s it would probably be a cult-following film even more than it is going to be probably today.

 

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The film does fall into some horror tropes, like sometimes the music will kick in when something is coming, some jump scares – although they work very effective here because of the premise of the film – and the main character being seen as “crazy” because she is seeing something that no one else does.

 

When it comes to the “It” that follows Jay around, I kind of don’t want to give too much away, even the trailers are very vague when it comes to what “It” is. Hugh says that “It” can look like a stranger or someone you know, which automatically builds up the tension. The other thing about “It” is that it slowly walks toward you, think Michael Myers or Jason Vooorhees, but without the mask or blade. “It” also has a pretty unique approach and look. They way it has to be passed is, again, something you can totally see in an 80s movie and believe and when it comes to the look, well that’s just something for you to embrace when you see – although you can’t let “It” touch you otherwise, well, you know.

 

The cast is pretty great here, but the film does belong to Monroe. She brings a great vulnerability and dread to Jay as she has to suffer with “It” following her until she passes it on. She is constantly looking over her shoulder or locking herself in her room making trying to stay safe, but obviously it doesn’t really work. Keir Gilchrist who plays Paul gets probably the second amount of screen time. Paul has a thing for Jay and even though at first he doesn’t really believe anything is after Jay he goes along with it.

 

Luccardi and Lili Sepe, who plays Jay’s sister Kelly, Jake Weary’s Hugh, and Daniel Zovatto have their moments to shine but overall the story is focused on Jay, so their characters are put aside.

 

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Lili Sepe, Olivia Luccardi, and Keir Gilchrist

 

It Follows is a slow burn and minimalist approach to horror. It might, and probably will, test your patience in a lot of ways, but you can’t take away that It Follows has have a lot of originality to it. Things really don’t get going until the halfway point and even then, they still take a very slow pace for everything to get going for the final act. I will admit the final act of the film falls a bit flat in terms of everything else that was done before that, but it sort of works.

 

The other thing about the film is that it has multiple layers. It’s one of the rare films that had me thinking after I walked out because of one scene. The scene is in the final act that takes place in a pool. Again, I won’t go into it because I don’t want to spoil it but if you pay attention to what is said by Jay and then focus on something that comes up after, it adds a bit more depth to what happened. I know that sounds confusing, but It Follows is really one of those movies you want to tell your friends about but not say much because you don’t want to ruin it for them. It’s also one of those you movies you might have to watch again, so you can catch some of the more nuance things going on.

 

All in all, It Follows brings some new things to the table for the genre and while it fumbles in some areas, Maika Monroe and director David Robert Mitchell do some great things that will keep this film above some of the rest. With the multiple layers the film has and the great moments, I can see why many are calling this a much-watch horror film.

 

It Follows

4 out of 5