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Don't Breathe
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Don't Breathe (2016)

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Plot Summary:
"Rocky, a young woman wanting to start a better life for her and her sister, agrees to take part in the robbery of a house owned by a wealthy blind man with her boyfriend Money and their friend Alex. But when the blind man turns out to be a more ruthless adversary than he seems, the group must find a way to escape his home before they become his newest victims."

Review by
Ryan McDonald
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Review Date: 18 March 2018 My Rating: out of 5


Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, and Daniel Zovatto are a trio of young thieves whose lives are going pretty much nowhere. In fact, Levy and jerky boyfriend Zovatto have dreams of leaving town after one more score. They decide to break into the home of a blind war veteran (Stephen Lang) who came into some money after the death of his daughter via a car accident. Unfortunately, Lang is no ordinary old blind man. In addition to being a war veteran, his other four senses are alert, he's resourceful, strong, and no mere would-be victim. These kids have f'd with the wrong Marine. Yes, I am proud of that one, thank you.

This 2016 horror twist on "Wait Until Dark" from director Fede Alvarez and co-writer Rodo Sayagues comes with much positive reaction from critics, especially genre critics. Although a tad overrated, I'm happy to say that there's some merit to the hype here. Aside from one character who should've been dead several times over, I really didn't have any big issues with this one. That one flaw was indeed very silly, otherwise it's effective in the moment, and that's all it's likely trying to be.

Early on I was worried that having a trio of thieves as protagonists would result in me having no one to root for, as the film kind of inverts the "Wait Until Dark" or "Panic Room" formula. I certainly didn't care that much initially for Jane Levy's 'poor white trash doing whatever she can to get out of the slums' rationale (though Levy's pretty good in the role), let alone her two male cohorts. That stuff reminded me of the terrible "People Under the Stairs" a bit. Interesting characters are for me an absolute must in any horror film, so a film that doesn't give me that has its work cut out for it. However, in addition to bumping off the least likeable thief first, you've got Stephen Lang playing the supposed 'victim' of the home invasion so you kinda know there's more than meets the eye here, if you'll pardon the pun. So it actually doesn't end up being an issue that the protagonists aren't very admirable. And boy is there ever more to this blind guy than on the surface of it. 20 minutes in and one look at this guy's personal set of tools has you unnerved (Don't worry, it's not really a 'torture porn' film). These idiot thieves don't know how much trouble they're about to be in, because Stephen Lang plays very, very far from a victim or a nice guy here. This is a guy with a grudge and a completely twisted worldview (once again, pardon the pun), and in the dark he's on much better footing against these intruders. Lang's perfectly cast, and despite having little dialogue for much of the film, he's put to good use.

There's an interesting look to the film once the lights go out, kind of like film negative meets night vision. It's overall a gorgeously lit film as lensed by Pedro Luque, and you all know I enjoy a good-looking horror film. If you enjoy the work of cinematographer Daniel Pearl, this is a very Daniel Pearl-looking film. This is 'jump' scare horror crossed with home invasion thriller, but so far as the former goes it's a rare effective one. I normally find 'jump' scares lame and lazy and only momentarily (and barely) effective, but this is one of the better examples of the device.

This is really simple genre filmmaking with enough filmmaking talent on show to make me want to see what the next film from Alvarez and/or Sayagues is. It's not great, but it is effective and that's the main aim one supposes. Amazing, given the protagonists are unlikeable twits, that it works but it does.

Reviewer: MissToxicLocket @ToxicLocket
Location:Florida, USA
Review Date: 14 October 2016 My Rating: out of 5

Don't talk. Don't drop anything. Don't try to aggressively pull a padlock off a door with an army veteran sleeping upstairs. No. Scratch that. Don't assume the Blind Man had been successfully gassed and won't hear you shoot at said padlock.

Don’t Breathe is a 2016 American thriller directed by Fede Alvarez, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Rodo Sayagues. It follows three young thieves (Jane Levy, Daniel Zovatto, Dylan Minnette) who rob the unsuspecting upper class Detroit families of their belongings, as a way to make money to get the hell out of dodge. In order to increase their gains overnight, the trio find themselves at a surprisingly dilapidated home in what appears to be an abandoned neighborhood, with hundreds of thousands of dollars rumored to be hidden somewhere on the property. Too bad for them - money isn’t the only thing hidden in the home. The Blind Man (Stephen Lang), as he is simply referred to, had lost his daughter to a wealthy young woman’s reckless driving. The woman was acquitted of any wrongdoing and in a settlement, he was awarded $300,000. His ramshackle home is guarded by an adorably aggressive Rottweiler. The sense of paranoia is seen in the placement of bars on the windows, amount of locks on each main door, and an alarm system. It is made apparent this army veteran does not want anyone to enter the premises… or, leave. The initial feeling when the three semi-successfully break in, is an uneasy tension. The bleak, dusty, quiet atmosphere and the cinematography reels you in, almost placing you in the same scenario of desperation and uncertainty. The camera glides pass the characters, focusing on their breathing, as if you are exhaling alongside each one of them. You're touring the home, the floor boards creeking and not one door isn’t in need of WD-40. Stephen Lang is superb as the Blind Man. There are moments where you feel bad for him, only to be reminded shortly that he is a bit unhinged. Jane Levy was also great as the lead female of the film. We get to see a few different levels of her character, her background, and how badly desperation can steer your behavior.

Don't Breathe does not go without flaws. I don’t know if having watched so many films over the years have numbed me to what many find “an excellent breath of fresh air”, but I found it to become boring and pretty predictable. The tension dies down fairly quickly and the suspense comes and goes. The twist in the Blind Man’s character and what he was so eager to protect was not as shocking as the infamous baster scene read around the internet, but even that became comical. Yep, half of the theater laughed. It also – again, in my opinion – hurt itself with at least two plausible and strong endings that would have worked greatly, but instead, continued to go on. These moves never work for me, and unfortunately, interest was long lost and my friends and I were ready for it to be over.

Home Invasion movies are meant to scare you, for it is something that happens in this world. The reality of someone breaking in while you are asleep or simply unable to defend yourself, reminds you how vulnerable we all are. So naturally, having the protagonist become the antagonist in Don't Breathe was a great turn of events. However, I'm going to be one of those in a small group that felt some moments were a bit far-fetched. This, and the few inconsistencies that took place, made it a little difficult to pass as reality, which plays as a reminder - it is only a movie.

Don't Breathe has some fantastic acting, a strong story, and wonderful cinematography. But, it is one of those films that just doesn't live up completely to the hype.

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