Don’t Breathe (2016) – Fede Alvarez

I was pleasantly surprised by Don’t Breathe, though I didn’t like a single character in the film. They’re all evil in their way, and that made it hard to empathize. In fact, for the first part of the film, I sympathize with the Blind Man (Stephen Lang), until that twist of course.

But it’s interesting as initially I saw him as an avatar (no pun intended) for Justice, traditionally blind, and these characters, who for the most part aren’t nice people, no matter what their motivations, break into his house, adding trauma to the PTSD of a Gulf War veteran, with the intent of robbing him for their own personal gain.

Sure Rocky (Jane Levy) has issues at home, one could argue traumatic, but does visiting trauma on another household make that ok. Hell no.

Money (Daniel Zovatto) is just a tool, selfish and uncaring of anyone but himself. You can tell that by the way he refers to Rocky, his supposed girlfriend.

And then there’s Alex (Dylan Minnette) who seems to have most of his life together, and is doing this for the thrill, and because he’s got a thing for Rocky.

So I thought this would be about the characters getting the justice they deserve for their actions, and it partially is, but that mid-point twist makes us all realize that no one in this film is a good person, and now we just want to see how the cards fall.

It’s a well-crafted film, upping the tension wonderfully, and Alvarez, who not only directs, but co-wrote the screenplay with Rodo Sayagues, gets great moments, and performances from his cast. There is a sense of claustrophobia to the entire set, and Lang’s looming presence over the other cast members adds to the film’s sense of menace.

I didn’t care for Alvarez’s take on Evil Dead, but Don’t Breathe really enters white knuckle territory, and shows he can deliver a really frightening and original tale, and that everyone has a past, a secret, and a reason.

And I will say that reveal and how it plays out was dark, and I wasn’t sure I could follow the story down that hole, but I did, and it definitely made me feel like I didn’t care for any of the characters, even though the one character is able to survive as she is the least of all the evils.

The tension is high, the set pieces are solidly constructed, and the horrifying moments are truly horrifying, and Lang just has a presence that makes him incredibly formidable, and terrifying.

I realize, of course, that to have the Blind Man simply be an avatar for justice wouldn’t give his character much depth, so the twist was necessary, especially in modern films, otherwise it may have just been an update on Wait Until Dark, sans Hepburn.

And I’m not sure the sequel will have enough to hold my attention, so we may pass on that one…

Stephen Lang stars in Screen Gems’ horror-thriller DON’T BREATHE.

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