Thursday, 1 September 2016


In 2013 when director Fede Alvarez released The Evil Dead he achieved that rare thing — a remake of a beloved horror classic that delivered some bonafide chills and fun. It was gritty, gory, even darkly amusing at times and firmly established Alvarez as a film-maker to look out for.
Now, three years later, he returns to the genre with the eagerly anticipated Don’t Breathe.
Is this a film that was worth holding your breath for?
Or is it all out of puff?
Read on...


Dir: Fede Alvarez
Stars: Jane Levy, Daniel Zovatto, Dylan Minnette, Stephen Lang, Katia Bokor, Emma Bercovici, Franciska Töröcsik

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here but continue at your own risk.

Rocky (Levy), dreams of escaping from her deadbeat mother (Bokor) and moving to California with her younger sister, Diddy (Bercovici). To this end she has taken to burgling houses with her thuggish partner Money (Zovatto) and gentle friend, Alex (Minnette).
The group have an efficient system: Alex’s dad works for a home security firm, so Alex obtains house keys and insider info on how to bypass alarms. However, his reason for helping seems to be less about financial gain and more about aiding Rocky, for whom he clearly has feelings.
One day, Money hears about a huge potential score that could be enough to set the trio up financially for good. It involves a blind Gulf war vet (Avatar tough-guy Lang) who lives on a deserted street and received a hefty out-of-court settlement from a wealthy woman who accidentally killed his daughter. Rumours suggest that this blind man could have hundreds of thousands of dollars in his home.
Despite some initial misgivings about the ethics and legal repercussions (stealing money over the sum of $10,000 constitutes Grand Larceny, a far more serious crime), the group decide to proceed, drugging the man’s pet Rottweiler, then breaking into his home while he sleeps. 
However, once inside they soon come to realise that the dog isn’t the only ferocious animal in the house…

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): Let me cut to the chase, as an exercise in sheer tension, Don’t Breathe is phenomenal. The plot isn’t particularly complex, and nor are the characters, but Alvarez’s skill at crafting genuine thrills and heart-stopping suspense set-pieces is so fantastic that they really don’t need to be.
The characterisation is handled admirably by the small but strong cast. Levy is a very sympathetic lead, all wide-eyed fear and earnestness. Rocky has a similar vibe to her character, Mia, in Alvarez's Evil Dead — tough and edgy but still vulnerable. As horror heroine's go, she GETS it.
Minnette is equally likeable as the intelligent, sensitive one compared with the loud, jockish Money. He's a likeable chap and a lot of the film is spent worrying about whether he'll make it or not, a sure-fire sign that Minnette has done his job properly.
Zovatto also impresses aa Money and clearly has fun with the character — he’s the sort of dickhead that you love to hate.
However, as great as the three burglars are, it is Lang’s Blind Man that blew me away. Reading the description of the film, you could be forgiven for wondering how an older, visually impaired man could be a threat to three able-bodied youngsters less than half his age? Lang’s performance puts these doubts to rest. More physically imposing at 64 years of age than most men in their twenties, he brings a fierce, snarling rage to the role that establishes him as a credible threat early on. Add in ‘home advantage’ for the character, plus the fact that the robbers are woefully unprepared dipsticks, and the playing-field is quickly levelled. It’s a tough job to make a blind war vet mourning the loss of his daughter a frightening villain, but Lang is a talented man and manages the task admirably.
Beside the cast, the film has plenty of other strengths. It looks amazing, cinematographer Pedro Luque giving the movie a moody, deep green colour palette that accentuates the shadowy scenes perfectly.
Alvarez also shows off a number of flashy camera tricks, including sweeping pans and zooms that soar in and out of windows and even through floors and ceilings.
Later on, an interesting, oversaturated take on the familiar nightvision-style look for a pulse-pounding set-piece in a pitch-black basement is a real standout. It is different enough to appear fresh, yet still captures the essence of isolation and darkness that the scene relies upon.
As simple as the plot may be, it still also manages to squeeze in some surprisingly sick and bleak twists that I didn't see coming, especially with relation to what exactly waits behind the heavily locked door in the Blind Man's home. This is a story that goes to a very, very dark place (both literally and figuratively)… kudos to writers Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues for upping the stakes and intensity so deftly in the third act. What’s more, the pacing is absolutely flawless, the film never pausing for breath as it plunges us into a relentless series of suspenseful scenes.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): Perhaps the biggest complaint I can level at the film is that, like the equally impressive Green Room, the marketing trying to pass this film off as as a straight up horror flick is not entirely honest — instead think of Don’t Breathe as an intense thriller. Sure there are some jump scares and a little blood, plus some deeply horrifying themes and situations, but the movie never quite takes that step into full-on chiller territory.
There are couple of moments that stretch the credulity of what exactly the Blind Man is capable of — especially outside the familiar confines of his house, while a couple of plotholes come to light if you really think about everything that happens over the course of the movie. However, these are easily overlooked.
Also, as great as the cast are, the character development in the film is really pretty threadbare. Things happen to the characters, but nothing they don't really change that much. As character arcs go, this is more of a straight line from opening scene to ending. It's not disappointing — the film is far more of a rip-roaring thrillride (as a rather odd bit of grim humour fairly late in the game proves), and the characters themselves are fleshed out well enough that I didn't much mind seeing them react to situations rather than grow throughout them — especially when the intensity of these situations was giving me plenty more to focus on!

THE VERDICT: Maybe Don't Breathe isn't a strict horror title, but like Green Room, this is by far one of the best genre efforts I’ve caught this year. With some truly breathtaking setpieces and a killer performance from the immense Stephen Lang, this is one film you need to see.

Don’t Breathe is released in UK cinemas 9th September by Sony Pictures.
Until then, check out the film's official Facebook page here. Give it a like while you're there too!

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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