Hold on everyone, I know this film is highly rated on Rotten Tomatoes and it comes with a great pedigree. The trailer is absolutely smashing and that’s what sold me on it. The film is solid, BUT, I think it is getting a little over-hyped and that may contribute to a let down when you see the actual product. No one wants a great horror film to finish off the season any more than I do. “Don’t Breathe” will provide some shocks, a lot of tension but no horror and at times it will have a very mixed message.
To begin with, the premise is that three young people are going to rob a blind Army Vet of his cash. Now you may have all kinds of empathy for the young lady in the group, her mother is the real horror show, but she is egging some of the others on to do this particular crime. The other character we are asked to empathize with is a spineless outsider who betrays the one close link he has to the community with his actions. The final member of the home invasion team is a mental midget reprobate whose idea of fun is to pee all over the homes of the people he rips off. Writer/Director Fede Alvarez has created a problem for himself, and the fact that he almost overcomes it is a credit to his effort, but in truth, we might very well want to do to these crooks ourselves, some of the things that happen in this film.
Obviously there is a twist or two in the story, or else there would be little suspense and no surprises. The less said about these the better for the film. Once again, the mind set that we get here tries to place all the sympathy on the perps who get the tables turned on them, but as deranged and sick as some elements of the story might be, there is a mind coming up with a rationalization for what happens, compared to the simple greed motivation on the other side. This is not a justification, simply an observation of some of my own reactions.
There is a turning point in the film when it goes from credible to a bit over the top. I liked a couple of the twists and you can see how they make sense after the fact, but a lot of what occurs after a certain point comes down to “Unstoppable Boogeyman Syndrome”. Such overused story telling turns diminish what creativity the film built up. Actress Jane Levy is a veteran of Alvarez’s take on “Evil Dead“, a film I thoroughly enjoyed. She does a good job and has a very traumatic scene in the last third that plays out really well. Stephan Lang as The Blind Man, is convincing both as victim and antagonist. For most of the film he is silent, but after one of the twists, he speaks and it takes a lot of the energy of the horror away. There were ways to present the exposition that would not have required him to break what to that point was a silent force to be feared.
So the movie starts with a good premise, undermines that premise with characters to root against, but still manages to be engaging and tense most of the time. The big twists are reasonable but the execution of the last act loses all the good will the film had built up for me. If you are not shouting a little bit at the very last payoff, you are too programmed to accept the preposterous as a part of film characters. I don’t usually give scores or ratings because I think you might want to come to those conclusions without my preconceptions getting in the way. Because I have been so critical of what is a pretty good film, let me offer this guideline…B-. OK, now decide for yourself if the movie gets it wrong or I did.