Starring: Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minette
Director: Fede Alvarez
Running Time: 82 mins
Synopsis: 3 young house thieves pinpoint their next target. An old blind war vet who lives alone. Upon entering his abode they find that this old blind man may not be so handicapped after all. In fact he may just be their worst nightmare.
Relentlessness is not something I seek out in all films. If it goes on too long you run the risk of severe exhaustion and in turn grow to hate the thing that’s putting you through all this. But if you judge it right; short, sharp and to the point, then you achieve peak audience pleasing. I’m happy to say Don’t Breathe gets this all spot on. Opening with a brief intro to our players. We have Rocky (Levy), seemingly doing this for the thrill of it, it turns out she is seeking to raise enough capital to help her and her sister escape the hands of a neglectful mother. Alex (Minette) who is far too fresh faced to be involved in such larceny, but with quite obvious feelings for Rocky. And Money (Daniel Zovatto), a hot headed piece of shit who in an unfortunate for the trio move brings a gun to their latest targets abode. It is a ridiculously brief opening, but effective in showing motivations and, thanks to some decent performances, giving you affection towards them (well less so for Money).
Right from the moment they enter The Blind Man’s property the tension is palpable. We all sense something bad is going to happen and Alvarez is a master at teasing the inevitable explosion. Hitting the scene with a gloriously gory new iteration of the Evil Dead, here he has a remarkable restraint. Favouring a bubbling sense of fear and utilising a roving camera throughout the well designed house, you are on edge the entire time, searching the frame and straining your ears for anything that might give our guys up.
Using a blind man as the villain in this tale is a stroke of genius, playing with the audience’s perception of disability and giving rise to some effective set-pieces. Said Blind Man is given real menace by a terrifically forceful Stephen Lang, with his gravelly voice and imposing stature, he is a true movie monster. Thanks to a late in the day twist he is allowed some measure of sympathy albeit briefly. The twist in question will no doubt, and indeed already has, cause controversy. It is uncomfortable for sure, but not offensive as some would claim (the audience I saw it with were audibly troubled by it). However I would argue that it is a tad unnecessary. We already know this man is not to be messed with, adding this aspect is merely shock tactics. Not enough to derail the whole thing but it does overshadow the impressive craft on display.
Taut, lean and scary it may be but there is a shred of a deeper issue under it all. The final moments offer up a real moral quandary for the audience, the value of truth over selfish goals, even if those selfish needs are in aid of someone else. It isn’t overly hammered home but the questions still remain and make for a nice complexity to the simplicity of the preceding thrills. But all you need to know is you will go in calm and collected, and leave shaken and breathless.
Verdict: Succinct, intense and scary. It may be just a series of tense set-pieces but is constructed with efficiency and skill. One late in the day turn may turn some stomachs but Lang brings weight to what should become a new iconic horror monster.