Don't Breathe: Breathtakingly Good
Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) sneak into houses with stolen security keys and pawn off what they steal, all in the hopes of getting enough money to get out of Detroit. They find their big break when they discover the home of a blind man (Stephen Lang) who received a huge settlement after his daughter was killed in a car accident. Upon breaking in, however, they learn that the blind man is not the helpless man they assumed — in fact, he is a complete monster. The three friends have to scramble for survival as they get dragged deeper into the darkness of this man’s life and the skeletons in his closet.
Don’t Breathe is breathtaking in all of its technical aspects, but I don’t know if it’ll convert any non-horror fans. It’s a lot more cerebral and less dependent on jump scares, instead toying with you psychologically and showing some really disturbing situations. There’s no paranormal activity, no wide-mouthed demons, no creepy contortionists, and no computer generated monstrosities. It’s all based in the human experience, which arguably makes it even more terrifying.
As you can tell from the synopsis, there are no real “good guys” in the story, which may turn some people off. Rocky may want the money to take her little sister (Emma Bercovici) across the country away from their abusive mother (Katia Bokor), but she and her friends are still robbing a blind army veteran. On the other hand, the Blind Man may be the victim of a burglary, but there’s no getting around the fact that he’s a monster. Yeah, mild spoilers, this guy’s no saint. In fact, most of the pull to have you root for the robbers is that they’re not him.
The Blind Man is kind of a perfect horror villain, with his deep scratchy voice, feral mannerisms, twisted logic, and the menacing way he plays with his homefield advantage (that is to say, he may be blind, but he still knows his house better than the intruders). This culminates in what will undoubtedly be the signature scene of the movie, where the Blind Man pursues the kids around his labyrinthine basement in the dark, all shot in an eerie night vision mode. This movie likes to play with your senses, making you hyper aware of every noise that gets made and wonder which ones will spell doom for the kids.
As tense as this movie is, there are some scenes that could have been better. There’s a long take when the kids first enter the house that gets a little too cute in showing all the set pieces that will come into play later. The ending has about five different climaxes, all of which are good, but can get really exhausting for how many times you think it’s all done. Still, the characters are all consistent, making decisions that make sense to them even if they aren’t smart ones, and the overall story holds together very well. I would say this is one of the better horror movies of the year, so if you’re interested in testing your taste for terror, give it a watch.
Apparently, this movie had a good partnership with the contact lens industry. Aside from the lenses that gave Lang’s eyes a cloudy look for blindness, the other actors wore special contacts in the night vision scene that made their pupils look dilated and also impaired their vision, thus adding to the realism of the scene. Now if only I could use them to get contacts that make my eyes glow...