Don’t Think Either.
I’m starting to think film critics are seeing the recent competence in horror films like The Witch and Lights Out, and are beginning to confuse it with simple competence. Neither one of those films were bad, mind you, I just didn’t think these movies were going to lead us to the Promised Land. And we have the story repeating itself today with Don’t Breathe, an above average suspense flick that’s more thriller than horror. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…
So we got three assholes who break into people’s houses, steal their shit using one of the trio’s (Dylan Minette as Alex) dad’s keys since the father works at a security company with near limitless access to homes ripe for the taking. While one member, named Money, is always down for the biggest score; Rocky (Jane Levy) is hoping to get enough of a payout to get her and her little sister out of their neglectful, abusive mother’s delipidated home and out to California. Money gets them just the mark that can answer their prayers: a blind veteran (big ass, Cable-lookalike Stephen Lang) who recently came into possession of a wrongful death settlement worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Thinking the Blind Man to be easy prey, the trio quickly find themselves in way over their heads as this old man is still very much a capable killer even without his eyesight.
So we’re back to horror movie basics with unlikable twenty-somethings getting caught doing something wrong and being punished for it by an ultra powerful killer. Seriously, not one of these kids is remotely relatable. The movie tries to get you to like Rocky mostly, and while she’s being played by a decent actress, her relentlessness in getting the money out of the Blind Man’s home leads to several boneheaded decisions. Further, Alex is a crybaby Mr. FriendZone who similarly gets himself into stupid ass situations because he was too busy thinking with his dick. Further, Dylan Minette looks a like a prototypical white boy, as in you can buy him from a box and give you shocked expressions while sounding like he got hit in the head by a crowbar. And of course we have Money…his name is fucking Money. Do I have to mention he looks like a sleazy bastard?
To be frank, I was kind of rooting for Stephen Lang’s Blind Man initially. Dude was simply trying to defend his house and home, and he’s still able to teleport to any area of his house, Jason Voorhees style, lurking in the background waiting for one of the three dipshits to make a dumbass mistake. But (and I’m trying not to spoil anything even though the trailer gave it away) he’s got some thoroughly detestable secrets hiding in his basement that only get more fucked up the longer the film goes along. It all culminates in a scene that’s disturbing but not nearly as bad as the tree rape scene from the director’s previous flick, the remake of The Evil Dead.
Speaking of which, Fede Alvarez, once again demonstrates he’s got the eye and mind for what makes good suspense. His camerawork and direction of the actors gives you a solid sense of claustrophobia and he knows how to wind you up in all the right ways just like any decent suspense flick should. However, his decision with the much touted “twist” of the movie, strikes me more as trying too hard to be shocking. The character turn for the Blind Man definitely makes him to be more of a horrific monster, but it feels straight up cartoonish in a film that was so grounded in reality.
Look, we’ve got big scary boogeymen existing in horror circles for decades; and we’ve given them “sympathetic” back stories and stupid ass conspiracies involving them, but that’s the wrong approach to take. Jigsaw in Saw wasn’t interesting because he had a failed relationship and dealt with cancer; he was interesting because he had near limitless resources to put people in life or death games that forced them to confront their own sins. Freddy Kruger was a creepy dude with a fucked up face and omnipresent power while maintaining a gallows-humor edge; we loved him for that and not because he was a pedophile.
Similarly with Don’t Breathe, you shouldn’t care about The Blind Man’s past too much. Actually, he’s more scarier when you keep his history shrouded in mystery. We’re more afraid of what we don’t know, than of what we do. When the mystery is revealed behind The Blind Man’s dark as fuck secret, the wind is taken out of the movie’s sails and becomes another, if competent, suspense film. But horror writers can’t seem to fucking help themselves and just want to talk about their creation, rather than hinting or implying something far more interesting.
And if I wasn’t thinking about that critique, then I wouldn’t be thinking too hard about the premise. See The Blind Man is able to take out all three of the clueless assholes thanks to his encyclopedic knowledge of everything within his home as well as his heightened sense of hearing, smell, and touch. Kind of like Michael Myers crossed with Daredevil. But there are several moments when the three looters fidget or make a noise that you’re positive would alert The Blind Man…and it doesn’t. Then it gets stranger when more confusing situations for The Blind Man arise and you can’t figure out how he managed to figure that out all without the assistance of sight. Plus, the film had a missed opportunity to give you something fucked up with The Blind Man’s eyes, but the film opts to give you your standard discolored iris instead.
These are small critiques for an otherwise solid core premise and decent execution. But at the same time, Don’t Breathe doesn’t exactly offer anything new or groundbreaking. Despite the hyped up advertisement, the “twist” wasn’t that horrifying (although I do wonder if that says something more about me than the film) and it really doesn’t do anything new when it comes to manipulation of darkness and light. It’s a fine horror film that would feel more appropriate for a late September or early October release for Halloween, rather than a closure for the summer.
I think it still deserves to be seen in theaters, but I wouldn’t pay FULL PRICE for this. Given this a middling…