Movie Review – Don’t Breathe

by Paul Preston
The Movie Guys

SONY’s Don’t Breathe has a fantastic premise, one provocative enough to capture the number one slot at the end-of-summer box office for two weeks in a row – three young criminals break into the house of a blind man in hopes of making away with his fortune, only to find he isn’t as helpless as his handicap might suggest, and there’s more going on in the house than they expected. All a director has to do (in this case, Evil Dead (2013) director Fede Alvarez) is deliver that premise with style and suspense. Mission: accomplished.

Don't Breathe
Daniel Zovatto, Jane Levy and Dylan Minnette star in Screen Gems’ horror-thriller DON’T BREATHE.

Don’t Breathe sidesteps the traps of other horror/thriller movies such as getting to bogged down in unnecessary humor or overwhelming gore. Alvarez focuses instead on palpable, realistic tension and rather than be lumped in with the other forgettable genre pieces of the summer (The Darkness, Lights Out), you can make favorable comparisons to David Fincher and Alfred Hitchcock. Is this movie Psycho or Gone Girl? No, but there are shades of Panic Room and Rear Window as you wanna grip the sides of your chair and yell at the characters on screen as they get mired further and further in nasty situations.

One of the clever moves of the script was to make me care about all the characters in the film, and at the same time make them not worth caring for. They are complicated and have positive and negative characteristics and motivations. There were four or five different times towards the end of the film where they could’ve rolled credits and I would’ve been fine with the state of our anti-heroes, good or bad. The trick is that the film would keep going and find yet another interesting (sometimes horrible) situation for them to be in, so it wasn’t like that last Lord of the Rings movie that just wouldn’t end, it would feel over, but keep raising the stakes.

Don't BreatheThe comparison to Panic Room is easy and worn on the film’s sleeve – the color palette is definitely in line with Fincher’s, as is the lighting scheme, filling the screen up with just as much meaningful darkness and light. Not to mention, the closed-quarters claustrophobia and heist theme. The performances of the main trio of actors is good, I bought into the criminal activities of shiftless millennials played by Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette and Daniel Zovatto. But a bigger shout-out goes to long-time character actor Stephen Lang, so great in the likes ofGettysburg, Tombstone and Avatar with a big role here as The Blind Man. He does a lot with little dialogue.

By the end, the film goes there. You’ll have to see it to know what I mean, ‘cause it’s a major spoiler, but it goes to a highly, highly unpleasant place. And yet, through more of Alvarez’ voodoo magic, the movie never feels outright repugnant. Probably because our criminals have it coming, even if the target of their crime is also objectionable. They all have it coming, so just sit back and enjoy…perhaps endure…the ride.
Don't Breathe

Directed by: Fede Alvarez
Release Date: August 26, 2016
Run Time: 88 Minutes
Country: USA
Rated: R
Distributor: SONY Pictures

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