Title: Don't Breathe
Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote:
Chief Wiggum: Book him, boys.
Eddie: Hold on, Chief. It might be medicinal.
Mr. Mitchell: Uh, yeah, medicinal! Without it, I could, uh, go even blinder!
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Four Cujos out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis:
Tagline: "This house looked like an easy target. Until they found what was inside."
Better Tagline: "See no evil?" "The eyes have it?" Blind puns are so iffy.
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Rocky (Jane Levy) is a burglar. Together with her boyfriend "Money" (Daniel Zovatto) and platonic bestie Alex (Dylan Minnette), they break into Detroit houses "protected" by Alex's dad's security service. The stakes are low, as are the risks, until the trio learn about a man (Stephen Lang) living in a nearly deserted part of town who just received a huge settlement in the accidental death of his daughter. This is the big score they've waited for, and the guy also happens to be blind, which will make things much easier, right?
"Critical" Analysis: Fede Alvarez went for all the marbles in his 2013 directorial debut by helming a remake of the horror classic Evil Dead. And in spite of abandoned most of the original's humor, it was nonetheless an impressive effort, drenched in blood and relying much more heavily on pure terror, and it cemented both Alvarez and Levy as talents to watch.
Don't Breathe dials back the gore factor but arguably goes even longer on the dread. Alvarez has a real talent for building tension and, in the young Levy, may have found the perfect acting foil for his particular brand of atmospheric horror. It helps that Rocky is no mere scream queen, operating with pragmatic and occasionally ruthless efficiency in spite of the circumstances.
About those circumstances...let's not sugarcoat things here; Rocky, Alex, and Money are not good people. First, they target this guy because he obtained a six-figure settlement following the death of his young daughter, and then, when they find out he's blind, decide to go ahead with the robbery. On the surface, you won't find a more deserving group of murder victims this side of I Know What You Did Last Summer.
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To his credit, Alvarez does try make a few of the perpetrators sympathetic. For example, Rocky is from a broken home and wants to rescue her younger sister from their terrible mother, which is certainly a noble endeavor. Alex, on the other hand, seems like a nice kid but ultimately goes along because he's in love with Rocky. And Money is merely a scumbag. Just in case you didn't pick that up from the name "Money."
Some of the more far-fetched elements are addressed adequately (the omnipresent horror movie cell phone conundrum), others not so much (why do they assume the money is just sitting around in fat stacks?). And to Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues' credit, the movie also features one of the more unpleasant reveals in recent memory, one that almost immediately goes over the line, in every bellowing Walter Sobchak sense of the word.
There's also some economic commentary crammed in there, mostly to justify the Blind Man's actions. I'm not saying anything forgives what the dude subsequently does, but let's just say it appears the Castle Doctrine covers a lot more than just putting a bullet in an intruder's head. Lang gives his unnamed character grim purpose, and undercoats it with genuine menace.
Don't Breathe does great until the third act, where it starts stretching credibility juuust a bit in search of resolution. Even in spite of that, it's a fine horror film: claustrophobic, gripping, and refreshingly self-contained. And if it makes people think twice about picking on the disabled — or voting for those who do — so much the better.