Don’t Breathe is the standout horror of this year — you may be holding your breath till the last.
Don’t Breathe movie cast: Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto
Don’t Breathe movie director: Fede Alvarez
What can $300,000 make you do? For one, ignore all that can go wrong with a robbery attempt at the house of a blind Iraq war veteran living in a deserted part of town, with only the memories of a dead daughter and a Rottweiler for company.
Still, nothing prepares you for Don’t Breathe.
A relentlessly brutal, frill-free horror, it pits three reckless teens against a battle-hardened enemy who takes no prisoners and who keeps them on the run within the confines of a run-down house where every floor board can give them away. Turning stories of blind victims as well as of similar home invasions on their head, the film catches you by surprise as it builds its own central premise: of robbers desperate to get out.
Desperate is the word for Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto), who make do in their bleak hometown of Detroit, with few “prospects”, through small break-ins. Alex’s father’s association with a firm that provides security to these houses comes in handy. However, the robbery at the veteran’s home, billed only as The Blind Man (Stephen Lang), is the big deal. The man got that money as compensation when his daughter was run over by a rich man’s kid, and he is believed to keep the $300,000 in the house. Why Rocky, Alex and Money think that is the case is hazy, but frankly, they see the money as their ticket to California, and don’t bother to think it through.
Things go wrong from the start, as the house turns out to be effectively barred against outsiders. The Blind Man is asleep but with a eerie video playing of his daughter, and with a gun strapped to underneath his bed. The gas they set off to knock him out does nothing for him. Which is when the nightmare starts.
Lang’s heavily wrinkled face, the lines accentuated in the dimly lit house, and his unseeing steely grey eyes are enough to send shivers down the spine of the three robbers, and that’s before he even turns the tables around. Before long, a secret that the veteran has been hiding behind a locked door also tumbles out.
Director Alvarez, who also co-wrote the film, realises that talk is entirely unnecessary in a film of this kind, and The Blind Man hardly speaks. Which is what serves Don’t Breathe so well till some astonishingly lame dialogue and a cringe-worthy plot twist towards the end threatens to unravel the tension Alvarez has wrought.