Running Time: 89 Minutes/ available now on Home Video
Plot: Three twenty-somethings break into a blind old man’s home to steal his insurance money only to find he is a crazed, capable, killer.
Review: Don’t Breathe doesn’t waste any time. It is a film you can watch almost anytime, the kind you look at on Netflix and catch watch at any order of the day. After you watch it, you hope to find a film you like at least as much. You look for these films for a while and they are rarer than you hope as good films always are. Best of all as a horror film, only in 2016 would you expect it to slay. There’s just something about the cheapness of the genre in budget cost ($9.9 million dollars) that demands a greater quality leap to get over the stigmatic lack of quantity, if I have to endure the simulation of an unlikable predicament, it really has to give me bang for my buck.
Within twenty minutes (the perfect amount of set up time for a film) our protagonists are inside a house with their motivations all sorted out. There’s one who is a total piss ant, a character who driven by pure crime logic; his father’s insurance company collects damages so its low risk, especially in Detroit. He is motivated by his crush on the female heroine who wants to collect enough money to escape to California with her sister. It’s all setup nicely and efficient with a step forward in structure from director Fede Alvarez, whose previous film Evil Dead was steeped in meta mythos and a devoted fan culture.
What I love to see most in filmmaking; particularly in action and horror that is the establishment of spatial boundaries. As a gamer I like to escape to a world and stay there for a while. It is immersive to know how, where and when everybody is because it gives weight to every action depicted on film. Alvarez manages this by having the robbers move around the house before the real bad stuff goes down. Then has the camera swoop down and across continuously following the bad guy. It’s a simple but effective tactic that gets the job done despite being a little overused. In the beginning though when you see one character trapped in the closet and the other on the outside of the house, to know how far they have to get to one another with a killer in the way, its clear this is a cinematic challenge worth investing in that’s even game worthy. These moves are natural fit for producing tension and how the director uses the information we know against us to give weight to everything that goes on screen is an ingenious display. When we know a killer can’t be too far around the corner so we’re waiting for the scare to come the impact is dealt more meaningfully.
Another clever turn is how the dynamics of the characters and setting repeatedly change. When you get tired of the situation, a new twist gets introduced. Not since Die Hard have I seen a movie get such efficient mileage out of its running time while appearing so brisk. It helps that the two lead actors are good in their roles. Jane Levy as Rocky while not as likable as her companion and audience surrogate (you just can’t compete with the rare smart horror character) is likable enough and expressive without dialogue. That at least puts her on even footing with antagonizing Stephen Lang as the blind monster man. Despite his position, his weakness in sight, motivations and odd set of principles begs sympathy at times that’s occasionally answered back. As Alvarez uses the juxtaposition of monstrosity and humanistic qualities the horror ratchets up with the intensity. If only it was realistic to expect films this good all the time.
“Tightly paced with twist and turns the tense Don’t Breathe is a step forward for Fede Alvarez.”
Spoiler tag: The manner of stabbing the wrong body is bullshit that holds this back from greatness. #FedeAlvarez, #StephenLang, #JaneLevy, #GhostHousePictures, #ScreenGems, #SamRaimi