Movie Review: Don’t Breathe (2016)

“This house looked like an easy target. Until they found what was inside.”

2 Stars
Don't Breathe (2016)

Don’t Breathe (2016)


Director: Fede Alvarez

Cast: Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette

Synopsis: Three youths find that the blind man living in the house they’re burgling is a much deadlier adversary than they anticipated.

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The idea of a blind person using darkness to change the odds in their favour against sighted adversaries is nothing new, and was used to good effect in Terence Young’s 1967 thriller, Wait Until Dark, in which a blind girl (played by Audrey Hepburn) was threatened in her home by a couple of heavies.   But Fede Alvarez’s brisk little horror Don’t Breathe puts a fresh spin on the idea by having the blind person as the figure of menace, preying on three teenagers trapped in his home.   Having said that, the fact that the trapped teenagers on whom he preys entered his house with the intention of robbing him of every penny he had tends to keep any sympathy we might feel for them in check.

The driving force behind this gang of teen burglars is Money (Daniel Zovatto), the kind of kid whose future has prison written all over it.   If the first burglary we see them commit is anything to go by, Money’s calling card is the urine he sprays over his victims belongings while his two accomplices grab anything that they believe they can sell.  Those accomplices are his girlfriend, Rocky (Jane Levy), who’s seeking to raise some cash so that she can rescue her sweet little sister from their slatternly mother, while the lovelorn Alex (Dylan Minnette) tags along in the hope that Rocky will one day grow wise to the fact that he’s a much better catch that the worthless scumbag to whom she’s so devoted.

When Money learns of a blind war veteran (Stephen Lang – White Irish Drinkers) sitting on a fortune in dollar bills in a rambling old house he sees it as a prospect too mouth-watering to pass up, and while Alex is reluctant, Rocky is keen to get her hands on the old man’s money so that she can finally get her kid sister away from their mum.   Some drugged meat quickly takes care of the old guy’s vicious Rottweiler, and a bottle of gas placed in the old man’s room should have kept him sleeping regardless of how much noise they made as they searched for his money.   But, of course, something goes awry, because not only does the old man awaken, he proves to be a much deadlier adversary than the three kids could ever have imagined.

Alvarez and co-writer Rodo Savagues paint the blind man as an even more reprehensible figure than the three kids in their attempts to get the audience rooting for the teens, but the fact still remains that they’re predators who become prey, which is a turn of events we normally welcome as righteous justice.   Although this aspect of the movie is undeniably problematic, Don’t Breathe still manages to wring the maximum possible suspense from the situations it creates, and literally does have us holding our breath as the kids – whose number is swiftly whittled down to two – stumble around in the darkness trying to find a window not barred or a door not locked while also trying to avoid the vengeful old man, who has a sinister reason for ensuring they never escape alive.

Although it clocks in at only 90 minutes, Don’t Breathe is still guilty of containing one false ending too many, and sets itself up for a sequel that will require Alvarez and Savagues to add improbable plot twists to its use of dubious ‘heroes.’   For the moment, though, they’ve fashioned a superior genre movie which, while making little sense in hindsight, is a genuine edge-of-the-seat thriller boasting an unusual and original antagonist.

(Reviewed 7th September 2016)

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