The string of good-looking and highly anticipated horror films continues.
Alright, so I thought this movie looked awesome. Some dumb-ass kids try to rob a blind guy who turns out to be a psychotic madman himself and the tables quickly turn on who’s really the prey and victim here. A huge part of me is also wondering how the hell they get trapped in such a small house that they can’t just use the front door to leave, but here’s to hoping that this is so well put together that it’ll all be explained.
The cast. Who doesn’t love Stephen Lang? Say what you want about AVATAR (2009), you know you loved him at least. For an old dude, he’s a fucking bad-ass that I wouldn’t mess with. I have to admit that I’m not too familiar with Jane Levy. Some may recognize her from the TV show SUBURGATORY and a brief stint on SHAMELESS, but others may also recognize her from EVIL DEAD (2013), all of which I’ve never seen. Dylan Minnette I am somewhat familiar with. His last movie was GOOSEBUMPS (2015), which he was good in, as well as his brief role in the hit TV show LOST. However, I can’t say that I remember him from the movies PRISONERS (2013), LET ME IN (2010), or the TV show MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE. But from what I have seen, he’s a fine actor and others are noticing too as he’s clearly getting leading roles in some solid work. Finally, Daniel Zovatto. Here, we have someone who’s a veteran of the horror genre, having appeared in the popular and critically praised, IT FOLLOWS (2014) as well as having appeared (or will appear) in the TV show FEAR THE WALKING DEAD. Beyond these, he seems to be a fairly new actor having only done a few projects since 2013. After I see this, I’ll have an opinion on his acting chops.
The crew. Directing and co-writing is Fede Alvarez, and his partner-in-pen, Rodo Sayagues. Together, they’ve collaborated mostly on shorts in the past, but they did work together on EVIL DEAD (2013), again, Alvarez directing and co-writing with Sayagues. I guess this means that this is something of a reunion between these two men and Levy. Finally, the man behind the music for this flick, as well as reuniting with his EVIL DEAD crew is Roque Baños, having previously done the music for this year’s RISEN, IN THE HEART OF THE SEA (2015), and like I said, EVIL DEAD (2013).
I’m going to guess we’re going to see some pretty damn good stuff here. Everyone will seem to know what they’re looking for out of each other, so I’m going in with some pretty damn high expectations. Let’s get our creepy factor on and see what all this is about. This is my honest opinion of DON’T BREATHE.
Rocky (Jane Levy) is young woman living a hard life. Her mother is a horrible person to her and cares only about her boyfriend. The only person she cares about is her little sister Diddy (Emma Bercovici), whom she vows to take away from this life and live a better one in California. She plans to accomplish this by robbing wealthy houses and fencing their stolen items with her boyfriend Money (Daniel Zovatto) and close friend Alex (Dylan Minnette), who secretly harbors feelings for her. Money’s latest tip is to rob an older blind man (Stephen Lang) who once fought in war and is sitting on thousands of dollars. But when they get inside, they quickly discover that the blind man is very capable of defending himself and even kills Money with his own gun. And soon, Rocky and Alex find themselves trapped him this man’s home, desperately looking for a way out with him hot on their trail.
8.2/10 on IMDb. 88% on RottenTomatoes (both as of 8/26/2016). I hate to say it, guys, but I kind of have to disagree with the consensus on this one. Yup, I walked away disappointed.
Before I tackle my issues with the characters, I have to wrist slap whoever thought they needed a composer for this movie (no offense, Baños). Simply look at the title of the movie. “Don’t breathe.” What does that tell you? Don’t make a sound because if you make a sound, the blind man will kill you. Doesn’t having a score kind of go against itself? How much more suspenseful would the movie have been if there was no music in the background? It would have been so much more immersive if the movie were as quiet as the characters were trying to be.
For one thing, the young characters are a little too generic and bland for my taste. Teens with rundown lives and try to escape it by stealing their way to a better one. Kinda feels like this has been done before. Rocky is supposed to be given the most audience-sympathy, but even that’s not very effective. She tries to explain her mother’s negligence by telling the story of how her father left them, her mom blamed her, and whenever she cried, she would be locked in the trunk of her car. I’m honestly surprised she didn’t call child protective services on herself. Even if you’re too scared of a foster home, you’d think it couldn’t be worse than the current life you live. Another missed opportunity is developing a connection with the younger sister. All we get is a vague “she’s not as victimized as Rocky” and a standard “promise of a better life.” Perhaps if the movie dedicated just one scene showing just how close the sisters are, the weight and desperation of Rocky’s need for survival would be more powerful. Instead, her need for the blind man’s money just comes off as… well, needing the money. Not for any particular reason, just… need the money because it’s money. I suppose you could argue that she fights for the money because it’s worth her life, but again, that seems incredibly selfish in of itself. If she dies, then there’s no one to protect her little sister from her borderline abusive mother. Rocky never thinks about this and her actions don’t feel justified. “Live to fight another day” is a thing.
But if you thought Rocky was the worst I’d have to deal with, she only comes in at a close second. Yup, Money. First of all, stupid-fuck name. Second, every other god damn sentence has to end with, “bro.” “I knew you’d pussy out, bro.” “Shut up, bro.” “Relax, bro.” SHUT UP, YOU DUMB FUCK!!! One would think that his death (no, this isn’t a spoiler, it’s all over the trailers) would be the most satisfying thing ever, but instead, it feels more like that this movie owed me that death. It’s like they knew this character was so obnoxious that him getting shot in the head was more of an apology to the audience rather than anything resembling tragic or thankful. Kind of like if someone spills your hot coffee all over you. Your shirt is stained, it smells, and it’s wet, and you’re skin is burned. An apology is owed, but it doesn’t dry your shirt, take away the smell, magically revert it back to its natural color, or cool your first-degree burns. Yes, Money get’s shot and killed. Well, I had to spend a shit-load of time with him for that first fifteen, twenty minutes of the run-time with his annoying ass. You don’t get brownie points for doing the right thing after doing something lame in the first place.
But for all the flawed characters, there are some truly amazing aspects about the movie as well.
Lang as the baddie? He’s damn intimidating. He’s a fucking monster in this. Every moment he appears on screen is a gripping series of seconds that can go in any number of suspenseful directions. He’s by far the best part of the movie. One of the best scenes in the movie is the one teased in the trailer when he turns out the lights in the basement and Rocky and Alex are blind. The way the entire scene plays out is unbelievably suspenseful. And it’s quiet! No score! And speaking of quiet, I’d be surprised if Lang had more than twenty lines of dialog in this flick. He doesn’t bother with taunting or lecturing, he just does what he knows he needs to do. Prevent the kids from escaping using a particular door? Beat them to it and fire the pistol. Can’t chase them outside? Sic the dog on ’em. You know exactly what he’s thinking. You know exactly what his next step is and he doesn’t miss a beat. And this carries pretty much the entire movie.
Even his motivations are understandable, regarding the kidnapping of the young girl who was responsible for the death of the blind man’s daughter. Yeah, this stuff gets pretty sick. Because she got off scott-free from punishment because she’s “a rich girl,” at some point, he took her away and locked her up in his basement. Believing that because he took his daughter from him, she owed him a new one. He literally injects his semen into her with a turkey baster and promises her freedom as soon as his daughter is born. This is obviously only revealed at the end of the movie. Of course, she’s freed, but gets killed two minutes later accidentally, via getting shot by the blind man. At first, he laments her death and the audience is probably thinking because he lost his sex slave, but he later tells Rocky that the girl was pregnant with his child. He wasn’t lamenting the girl. He was lamenting the second child he lost and now he’s planning to use Rocky the same way, also promising to set her free when she births his child.
This film had an ingenious pitch that would hook any horror fan and the marketing team deserves a round of applause for the trailer. But the overall execution was very flawed. The beginning isn’t very strong as the characters seem like cardboard cutouts of characters we’ve seen before, and those characters are not very well-written. At best, they’re bland, at worst, they’re annoying as all fucking hell, and I do think the cardinal sin of the movie is having a score. But it definitely makes up for having a wonderful performance delivered by Lang, who fucking owns this movie. It’s not a bad flick, but it’s not nearly as good as I was hoping it would be.
My honest rating of DON’T BREATHE: 3/5
Upcoming hopeful reviews:
- THE MECHANIC: RESURRECTION
- trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QF903RaKLvs
- HANDS OF STONE
- trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1W1L0WnVnjY
- SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU
- trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erpUF2ToUls
- THE HOLLARS
- trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDm-hMnvB44
- A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS
- trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2Jd6COX9Q0