by Kevin Muller
“Don’t Breathe” asks you to take sides with criminals who decide to rob an Iraq Veteran who has been dealt a terrible bunch of cards in life: he is blind and lost his daughter in a car accident. Of course, the two of the three criminals are given character traits and back stories for you to feel that what they are doing is completely justified. This isn’t anything new in Hollywood, sometimes it is fun to side with the bad guys and see what living life in sin is like for a while. Usually though, characters ride the wave of pleasure until reality smacks them in the face. In this movie, reality does more than smack our main characters in the face, it beats them over the head with it and takes no prisoners.
This is the second collaboration between Jane Levy and director Fede Alvarez. The two last worked together on the 2013 remake of “The Evil Dead.” Though that movie pushed the bounds of its R rating, it also had half the brain and charm of the original. This time, Alvarez and Levy have something original to work with and it is quite an interesting spin on the horror genre. Levy, who plays Rocky, is looking for a way to escape her dead end life and take her younger sister along with her to California. Their mother is neglectful and unfit to be any sort of care taker. Rocky, along with her two friends Alex and Money, rob houses for quick cash. Money finds the ultimate score that is supposed to be hidden in the house of a blind and lonely Iraq Veteran that recently lost his daughter to a car accident. Money is all about the cash, while Alex, is the conscience of the group always questioning if what they are doing is right. The three soon break into the house and soon discover that this blind man, with an array of military training, isn’t as helpless as they originally thought.
The premise of this movie is enough to warrant a positive recommendation, and it does run with it for most of the 90 minute run time. Stephen Lang, the evil Colonel from “Avatar”, is actually the perfect choice to play the blind man, Norman. He not only does the blind side of the performance quite well, but is believable as an ex-soldier who uses his skills to fight back. The three main leads are likeable enough that you can forgive them for this absolutely awful decision they have made to take advantage of the disabled. Most of all, Alvarez films the action all in this two story house, and makes some choices that create such a nail biting tension. It is a really fun time at the movies since he has such a blast creating memorable scenes of the three criminals adjusting to fighting a different kind of battle with an enemy who has sort of an upper hand at points. Though it may feel tacked on, Alex’s feelings for Rocky, gives the character and the movie the depth that helps it avoid just being a gimmick. One thing about the “Evil Dead” remake that was pretty strong was the performance by Levy. She was quite disturbing as the possessed version of herself there and here she makes a fine lead. Rocky is smart, independent, and capable of taking care of herself. She is not only a great scream queen, but a worthy heroine as well.
The ending of the movie does add some meat to the story and is pretty disturbing. It is an interesting direction, though does seem like more of a catering to horror fans than completing a pretty interesting story. Until that point, the movie seemed daring and uninterested to fall to conventional story telling. Still, the movie is pretty damn strong outside of those short final minutes.
Alvarez has created something memorable and original with this movie. He takes one hell of an original premise and makes something that will keep you glued to your seats for 90 minutes. In a world of constant underwhelming remakes of 80’s horror and laughable attempts at the genre, this movie is a breath of fresh air. Oh, watch out for Levy, I think we may have ourselves a new horror movie queen!