Monday, August 29, 2016

Don't Breathe

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! I'll breathe if I want to, movie.  Let me live my life!

Don’t Breathe – 4 out of 5

Home invasion thrillers are quickly replacing “found footage” as the new go-to horror films in today’s society.  It just makes sense because your home is supposed to be where you feel safe and where nothing bad is, in theory, ever supposed to happen to you.  The idea of people invading our world is inherently frightening.  Don’t Breathe takes a new approach to the home invasion thriller as the protagonists are the ones doing the invading.  So, does flipping the script work here?

                                                                             Ghost House Pictures/Good Universe
Things would have ended differently if he was feeling the opposite wall...

Money (Daniel Zovatto), his girlfriend Rocky (Jane Levy) and their friend Alex (Dylan Minnette) are three small time criminals in Detroit who access the homes of the security company that Alex’s father works for and commit robberies.  One day, they get wind of an old blind army veteran (Stephen Lang) who lives out in an abandoned part of town and he is is sitting on hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash after a settlement was given to him due to a hit-and-run accident that took the life of his daughter.  It seems like an easy score until they discover that this man won’t go down easily and that he’s hiding a horrible secret.

                                                                             Ghost House Pictures/Good Universe
The secret?  The blind man hangs the toilet paper the under way...but he's
blind, so cut him some slack.

I’ll be honest; I was a tad hesitant about Don’t Breathe.  Over the course of the last several years, I’ve found the horror genre to be one of the lazier genres out there and one that tends to repeat itself over and over again and rely far too heavily on the quick, easy, and terribly predictable jump scare.  I've basically grown bored with the genre and just don't see a lot of films that work within it.  Even worse, the trailer for this one promised that it had a “shocking twist ending” and every time I see that I always find an ending that isn’t really that shocking or that much of a twist.  However, it has Stephen Lang in it—the only aspect of Avatar that I enjoyed—, it was directed by Fede Alvarez (the man behind the Evil Dead remake—and damn, I thought that movie was fantastic!), and my girlfriend is a horror nut and she wanted to see it so we went and checked it out…I was pleasantly surprised!

                                                                            Ghost House Pictures/Good Universe
I really wish he would play Cable in the next Deadpool film.

Two things that really struck me almost immediately with this film is the fact that Alvarez really knows how to use sound (or its absence of it) and music extremely well.  The music goes beyond your average, run-of-the-mill striking chords and goes with a soundtrack that contains tunes that have a very noticeable beat to it—very much like the heartbeat that would be pounding in your ears when you are trying to remain quiet while sneaking around a house.  The music goes one step further by having a chaotic element to it and acts as the polar opposite of the three kids in their attempt to quietly get in, get the money and get out.  Once they’re discovered, you know they’re up turd creek without a paddle but the harsh, unique music really helps sell just how bad things are getting and will continue to get for the trio.

                                                                            Ghost House Pictures/Good Universe
Is this film more terrifying than Minnette's last film?  Well, yeah, that's obvious.

This musical element works in concert for the way Alvarez uses the sound.  When the kids first enter the house, everything is quiet but the small things like their footsteps, their breathing and creaks of the floorboards.  Like anyone who has ever had to move around their house while a loved one is still in bed, these normally forgettable background noises become elements of cacophonous sound that made the viewer cringe with worry over being discovered.  This really helped to create suspense in the moments leading up to when the blind man is awoken from his slumber and the survival horror element takes over.  At that point, the film is fairly by-the-numbers but Alvarez did a masterful job of making these seemingly routine and cliché moments feel fresh and new—even when they led up to a tiresome jump scare.

The performances in the film are absolutely excellent as Stephen Lang is a genuine badass and a threat as the blind man and the kids are all playing their roles exceptionally.  Additionally, the characters are crafted better than you usually see in horror films.  Rocky is sympathetic for her reasons for committing crimes and is developed exceptionally (albeit she is a tad cliche in her motivations). Another aspect of the characters that I enjoyed was the restraint the writers took with crafting them.  It seems the standard for characters in a horror film in today's day and age is to basically make them all...well...assholes.  Too often thriller and horrors are filled with detestable characters that are impossible to sympathize with.  This eliminates our desire to see them live and destroys the shock value when the predictable deaths occur; instead, these deaths become moments of celebration because they "got what they deserved."  This also calls into question who the real bad guy is in all this mess.  Don't Breathe avoids this pitfall by having character that you are actually invested in.  Sure, Rocky is the most sympathetic and Alex is in desperate need of some more depth beyond the fact his dad is the reason they have access to these homes and the fact he has a crush on rocky.  I will also grant you that Money is one of those characters that is clearly written for you to want to see be the first one to die but, thanks to this comparison, Rocky and Alex are actually fairly decent people despite being criminals and you actively want to see them survive. 

                                                         Ghost House Pictures/Good Universe
I'm pretty certain she's breathing.  Is everything in this film a lie?!?

The only downsides I had for the film was the fact that, despite its relatively tight running length, the plot does tend to drag at times.  There was definitely a moment or two where I felt the battle between the invaders and the invaded started to get monotonous but these moments were few and short.  Finally, I’m not entirely sure I would call the “twist” very shocking or even a twist.  While it is interesting, the “twist” makes too much logical sense (in terms of horror logic, anyway) for it to be a twist.  It was definitely a cool element to the film but it is a long, long, LONG way from being shocking, surprising or even a twist of any kind.  I honestly found myself saying, “Yeah, that makes sense for the character.”

Don’t Breathe is an excellently crafted thriller that makes great use of its sound, music and it’s light and darkness.  The cast does an excellent job and the director provides a product that is never outright frightening but does a great job of keeping you tense and on the edge of your seat.

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