By Michael Kaye
Don't Breathe (Review)
My apologies for sounding like a broken record, but 2016 has been a VERY good year for horror. The best part about it is that we're seeing a lot more variety. Not only do you have ghost stories, but there are crossovers with Sci-fi, political thrillers, psychological thrillers, and in the case of today's film, a good old fashion home invasion thriller with a twist. Director Fede Alvarez is back with his second collaboration with Ghost House Pictures to bring us Don't Breathe, starring Jane Levy and Stephen Lang.
The story is quite simple. A group of teens break into a blind man's home thinking they'll get away with the perfect crime. They're wrong.
I'm having a hard time figuring out which movie I liked better, this or Lights Out. Both films are excellent, two of the best horror films of the year, but for reasons I'm about to explain, Don't Breathe might just barely edge it out. Here are my positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, the cast is amazing. I might have found my new favorite actor/director combo with Jane Levy and Fede Alvarez. I've never seen Shameless nor Suburgatory, but just going by her two films with this director, I can tell she's got a long career ahead of her. I don't mind if she's typecast as the final girl, but eventually I want to see her transition into an action heroine, perhaps joining one of the major cinematic universes? Speaking of which, WHY ISN'T STEPHEN LANG CABLE ALREADY!?!?!? Hell, I'll even settle for Deathstroke, especially after the twist, which we'll dig into later on. But yeah, Lang is amazing in this film, giving one of the best performances in a horror film this year since John Goodman in 10 Cloverfield Lane. Also great in this are Dylan Minnette as Alex, and Daniel Zovatto as Money.
Fede Alvarez is slowly becoming one of my favorite horror directors working today. In fact, I don't even think horror is the best way to describe this movie, as it feels more like a suspense thriller. If you have a weak constitution, you probably shouldn't see this movie, because there is a shit ton of violence. This and Green Room are probably the most violent films I have seen so far this year, and while at times it can get a little excessive, I was so invested in the story that it never really bothered me. I also have to give props to the cinematographer Pedro Luque, especially for that one scene in the trailer that's almost completely dark. My one criticism of that scene in the movie is that it would have been a touch more effective without the music, but that's a minor nitpick.
Speaking of the music, Roque Baños returns to compose the score. Unlike what he did for Evil Dead, which was more epic, this time the music was more minimalist, which makes sense given the much simpler narrative. However, as I alluded to above, the most effective scenes in the film are the ones without any music, as that raises the tension all the way to 11.
Finally, here's where I have to play Devil's Advocate. Despite my overall score, I do NOT think this movie is perfect. In fact, the second half is probably going to cause a number of debates. Now, I'm not going to directly spoil the big twist of the movie, but if you've seen it already, then you know exactly what I'm referring to.
On the positive side, what I like about the twist is that it adds one more disturbing layer to Stephen Lang's character. Clearly he was deeply affected by the death of his daughter, to a pretty disturbing degree. Thank God I didn't see the Red Band trailer before I saw the film, so I was genuinely surprised by this reveal. It also provides a more immediate threat for Rocky, who finds herself separated from Alex for a long stretch of the film.
However, while this wasn't exactly MY issue with the twist, I can see why other people may have a problem with it. Up until that point in the film, there was a great deal of moral ambiguity between the characters. I mean, hell, our protagonists are delinquents, robbing houses for cash, in the hopes of moving to California. And all the Blind Man is doing is defending himself while people are trespassing. But while this twist does ramp up the tension, it unfortunately takes away that moral ambiguity, making The Blind Man a more tradition villain, albeit one who still thinks he's the hero of his own story.
Don't Breathe was incredible! What better way to close out the summer than a really tight suspense thriller, featuring great performances, fantastic directing, tons of satisfying violence, and a nice soundtrack to top it off. I think I'm ready now for whatever Fall has in store for us, between all the potential awards contenders and a few more scares along the way.
Now I want to hear from you guys. Have you seen Don't Breathe, and if so what did you think? Also, which remaining horror films are you most looking forward to? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned as always for more awesome content coming your way!