Usually when we hear of yet another remake we write it off and pop it on the pile of films we don’t have any intention of watching. At least that’s what I do. However every once in a blue moon one comes along that manages to come close or even perhaps top the original – We Are What We Are for instance. When Fede Alvarez came along and remade Sam Raimi’s horror classic Evil Dead back in 2013 it completely blew most of us – critics and horror fans alike – out of the water with its ingenious ability to take a classic and do something a little different with it and more importantly, do it rather well. So when his new thriller was announced it was approached with much excitement and high expectations.
Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex, (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) decide to take part in one last robbery before they head off to start a new life in California. Their target is a rich blind man – who is never given a name – (a menacing performance from Stephen Lang) whom they believe will be an easy target and they’ll be in and out in no time. The trouble is this man is not who he seems and before long the trio realise they have ticked off the wrong man and he has deep, dark secrets of his own which soon become apparent. They three friends must find a way out of the home until it’s too late.
Alvarez’ horror thriller is gritty, edgy and extremely suspenseful. As far as similar genre films go, this is arguably one of the best to date. The direction is slick and some of the shots are reminiscent of David Fincher, especially his clever ability to film in tight spaces and create a realistic sense of claustrophobia (the opening of Fight Club and Panic Room). As the audience we really feel we are in that house with the robbers as they try to find a way to escape. What’s more, Alvarez taunts us with twists and turns that keep us guessing until the anxious climax.
There are only a handful of cast members but they are all on top form. Jane Levy (also in the Evil Dead remake) is solid as the female heroine Rocky. Levy carries the role well, managing not to venture into ‘damsel in distress’ territory but rather retain a strong lead performance and we really care about her as the film goes on. Minnette (becoming familiar with the genre after appearing in Goosebumps earlier in the year) is just so likeable it’s hard not to be on his side as he plays the typical ‘friend zoned’ member of the three. He is charismatic but also understated and gives a consistent performance.
However it’s Lang who really stands out here as the man who goes from being victim to villain all in the space of 88 minutes. He carries such a threatening presence with him and is perfect for this role. Having to act as someone who cannot see means he has to use his four other senses even more and this is no easy feat but he pulls it off brilliantly. This film ticks all the boxes and with have you sat on the edge of your seat throughout as you wait for the nail-biting conclusion. The music is eerie and the direction is polished and smooth. All the ingredients come together to make an uneasy horror thriller that will stay with you for days. Alvarez is definitely a director to keep an eye on.
I hadn’t heard much about this movie prior to release but what I was interested in was can this movie continue the small scale revival of horror that seems to be taking place in 2016? The answer to that is a resounding yes and there’s lots to love about this movie, a very nasty little take of revenge and retribution enacted by an Iraq war veteran on three young chancers who seem to be making a living by carrying out high end burglaries in the run down city of Detroit.
Initially we are steered towards hating the three of them for what they are doing but this movie cleverly does is almost make you sympathetic to their background, like you can’t support their actions but you can understand it. They get given a tip about a retired war veteran who is sat on $300,000 – a payout he received when his daughter was killed so here in lies the appeal of targeting his house.
DON’T BREATHE creates a great sense of tension once the three of them gain entry to his home and you almost feel sympathetic to the home owner until you realise that his blindness is actually a useful weapon. A fantastic scene in the cellar of the house is set up as the burglars are trapped and he trips out the lights and you really feel their sense of desperation once you know he is used to not seeing but for them it’s a new and terrifying experience.
That’s not to say the movie is without its flaws. Despite his size, stature and capabilities there were plenty of opportunities early in the movie to incapacitate him that were not taken but then we would have only had a movie that was half an hour long. I’m still out on the character found in the basement but it was compensated for by an excellent scene involving a huge syringe. I won’t spoil it but even I as a seasoned movie watcher had to look away. No syringe, filled with what it was deserved to go there!
Also I must say this is quite a nasty and violent movie and it’s not scared of showing it. Do not be put off by its certificate, it certainly ticks all the boxes for a violent home invasion movie and almost regenerates the sub genre of horror.
This has been one of this year’s best horrors by far and I really enjoyed it. It make me squirm, I jumped a few times and it also made me laugh as well. Coupled with a nasty undertone and a clever ability to make you switch sides so that by the end of the film you almost feel sorry for the kids that robbed his house.
Definitely one to see.
Don’t Breathe is out at cinemas from the 9th September.