Movie review of “Don’t Breathe”: Teen burglars rob the house of a blind man who isn’t so helpless in this suspenseful horror film. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
This has been a banner year for excellent horror films, which seems at times appropriate, given the horrors of 2016 — shootings, war, natural disaster, an unprecedented presidential campaign. When it feels like the world is going to hell in a handbasket, there’s catharsis to be found in a horror film where the final girl fights off the boogey man.
Add Fede Alvarez’s “Don’t Breathe” to the canon of instant-classic horror movies of 2016, joining “Green Room,” “Lights Out” and “The Conjuring 2.” Like “Lights Out,” “Don’t Breathe” revolves around an ingenious concept — teen burglars rob the house of a blind man who isn’t so helpless. And like “Green Room,” it taps into devastatingly contemporary cultural undercurrents. The teen burglars live in the wasteland of a downtrodden Detroit; home-invasion burglary seems like the only way out for these lower-middle-class kids.
The trio is driven by their lack of options and, as have-nots, feel somewhat justified in stealing from the haves. But there are larger motivations at stake. Rocky (Jane Levy) is desperate for an escape from her abusive mother’s house for herself and her sister. She’s backed up by her thugged-out wild-card boyfriend Money (Daniel Zovatto) and her friend Alex (Dylan Minnette), the brains of the operation, who harbors a crush on the unavailable Rocky.
Movie Review ★★★½
‘Don’t Breathe,’ with Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, Stephen Lang. Directed by Fede Alvarez, from a screenplay by Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues. 88 minutes. Rated R for terror, violence, disturbing content, and language including sexual references. Several theaters.
It’s not long before they’re tipped off to a Gulf War vet (Stephen Lang), sitting on a large cash settlement from his daughter’s wrongful death, hit by a teen driver. It’s only after they’ve set their sights on him that they discover the man is blind, but still proceed with the burglary. They’ve grossly underestimated their target, both in his physical capabilities and in his desire for retribution.
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Alvarez and writer Rodo Sayagues have devised some incredibly suspenseful set pieces around the man’s blindness, which the teens attempt to exploit in order to escape the house and make off with the dough. But he’s battened down the hatches on his dark, crumbling home, knows every floorboard creak and is unwilling to part with his goods — or let any deed go unpunished.
The audience is privy to all the close brushes in tight hallways and stifled screams as the invaders attempt to hide in plain sight. The tension never lets up and the shocking twists in the story need to be seen to be believed.