Director: Fede Alvarez
Starring: Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Stephen Lang
Look, I know movies are mostly fiction and much of what happens in them can’t really happen in the real world. Still, I look for a certain amount of reality in movies that don’t contain ghosts, aliens, cyborgs, etc. In other words, when it’s steeped in reality, you sometimes lose me when things get too outlandish and inexplicable.
Case in point: Don’t Breathe. Now here’s a horror movie helmed by a guy who knows how to put a good scare together, that being Fede Alvarez, the guy who gave us that relatively decent Evil Dead remake. The movie deals with three dimwits (Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette and Daniel Zovatto) trying to rob a blind military veteran (a growly Stephen Lang) of his dough in his house. In the course of their heist, they find out a few really bad things about the guy, including his aspirations to be the next Jigsaw (the presently retired, ridiculous villain from the Saw series).
Rocky (Levy, who also starred in Alvarez’s Evil Dead) wants to get out of Detroit—who can blame her?—and move to California with her little sister. She and her boyfriend (Zovatto) have been pulling off minor robberies with Alex (Minnette), using alarm codes from his dad’s security company. They get wind of a boatload of money in the blind man’s house and set out to rob him while he’s home.
Yes, the premise is interesting, but things go off the rails pretty quickly when The Blind Man—that’s his actual character name—somehow survives a gassing and interrupts the robbery. His initial thwarting of the break-in is convincing enough, but then the movie becomes all about the robbers standing still while The Blind Man races right by them.
Right here I’m calling bullshit because Alvarez makes a point to show us The Blind Man’s heightened sense of smell on many occasions. He also shows us that he’s a well-oiled, keen soldier machine, even with the loss of his sight. I found it totally ridiculous that he couldn’t sense individuals—sweating, twitchy, overly scared individuals—within inches of him with that nose of his. He might race by them once, but he does it multiple times.
Even if you were to let that go, the movie becomes a horror show when the robbers discover what’s in The Blind Man’s basement. It turns out The Blind Man has a backstory involving a daughter killed by a drunk driver and a revenge plot straight out of a Saw movie. And let me make this clear: When I draw comparisons to the Saw movies, it is not a good thing, because I totally hated all of the Saw movies.
You get the inevitable lights-out scene with the robbers trying to evade The Blind Man and Alvarez switching to night vision, just as Jonathan Demme did in The Silence of the Lambs with much more success.
Too much of this movie is based on everybody doing stupid, stupid things and reacting to their situations in a manner that qualifies them as truly moronic. Again, I can buy a couple of errors and misjudgments from characters being chased by a malevolent force, but things in Don’t Breathe get way out of hand. And as for the bit with the turkey baster, well, I certainly didn’t need to see that. Don’t get buttered popcorn before watching this movie.
On the plus side, Alvarez gets a few good jump scares, provides a decent homage to Cujo at one point, and gets good acting work out of Levy and, to some extent, Lang. Each performer is at the mercy of the silly script given to them, so when it gets a little too ridiculous, they must follow suit.
The ending leaves things very open for a sequel, which should satiate The Blind Man’s thirst to be the next Jigsaw. Given the early financial success for the movie, it’s safe to say The Blind Man will get more opportunities to do bad things with turkey basters and light switches. The horror genre has been rejuvenated the past couple of years, but films like this stall that renaissance.