Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Don’t Breathe

Every so often, a movie comes around that gains a bit of  momentum from the get-go.  Movies like 1996’s Scream was an innovative force that righted the horror movie ship that had nearly been capsized near the end of the 80s, entering the 90s.  In 1998, The Blair Witch Project was a terrifying experience—thanks to the advent of the internet and the viral marketing that touted the film as real found footage—that completely blew people away with its unseen terror.  At the turn of the century, the American versions of The Ring (2002) and The Grudge (2004) were steps in the right direction, with the first three Paranormal Activity films from 2009 to 2011 being the last (in my opinion) of the truly terrifying films exploding onto the cinema scene.

Just as a movie becomes the talk of the town, of course you have to tie in the director of said film and that would be Fede Alvarez.  This man really knows his craft and has been a pivotal fixture in the world of horror since coming onto the scene to direct the rebooted Evil Dead series of films back a few years ago in 2013.  I had such dreadful feelings for that movie until I sat down and watched it back then, wondering where this guy had been all along.  The amusing thing is…Alvarez hasn’t really been that busy since filming that reboot, only directing an episode of the Netflix series, “From Dusk Till Dawn,” since then.  So I was happy to see his name tied to Don’t Breathe and knew I didn’t need to see any reviews to know I was going in for a fun experience when I sat down in the theater.

A few weeks before this film was released, I’d been treated to seeing a television spot that had played on a regular basis, giving us review tags towards the end of the promo.  “Savagely unpredictable” and “Brutal…delightfully twisted” was a couple of quotes from Daily Dead.  “Gut wrenching” was another by CollegeMovieReview.com, but my favorite was “Modern horror masterpiece” by Screen Rant because that’s basically what I’m always looking for in a movie.  As a horror movie buff, I’m constantly hunting for the next best thing to arrive and really jumpstart the genre to take it back to the glory days of the 1980s. 

I can positively say there is nothing I like better than to sit in a dark theater and watch a terrific horror movie.  The only thing missing these days is the crowds that had used to fill the theaters back then, having to resort to sitting in a nearly empty theater as I had with this film.  Maybe it’s because I live in a rural town and not everyone is into going to the movie house to catch a flick or perhaps millennials these days are just too caught up in keeping their noses to their smartphones as they constantly browse and post in the social media web sites, not wanting to set it aside 90 minutes or so to enjoy a movie.  Either way, it’s okay with me because I hate when I get caught in a theater with crowds who talk to each other or use their phones…that’s a big pet peeve of mine.  But I had no such problem with this viewing, so without further ado, here’s the synopsis of Don’t Breathe

Three friends—Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette), and Money (Daniel Zovatto)—break into the house of a wealthy blind man (Stephen Lang), thinking they’ll get away with the perfect heist.  They’re wrong.

It’s funny, Don’t Breathe starts off with the audience’s understanding that the three main characters of Money, Rocky, and Alex are not the protagonists, but three lowlifes that rob houses.  Alex’s father works for a renowned security company that furnishes alarm systems for most of the residences around town, keeping most of the keys, codes, and virtual information in his home office.  Alex then uses that to help himself—as well as his friends—to whatever he can get his hands on within these homes.  These scenes have the potential to really anger the audience to go against these three, especially seeing some of the things they do inside these homes (Money is actually seen pissing all over one room before leaving).  So at the beginning of this film, you’re definitely set to take the side of the Blind Man once they make the decision to rob his home.

We then get some exposition of each character’s life, where we understand how Alex is the brains, Money is the shady lowlife strength of the group, leaving Rocky to be the love interest of Money.  But there’s a bit of a love triangle here as we see that Alex has feelings for her, so it’s understood that that bit of subplot is going to develop later in the film, even as it causes a little friction between the two males.

As I’d mentioned, we don’t see Alex, Money, and Rocky as the protagonists—especially when we first encounter the Blind Man in his home—but it soon changes after being in the house for a while.  Soon, we see that the homeowner is not so handicapped as the tables turn very quickly and quite violently.  The three characters who had been seen as the predators at first, quickly turn to prey and that’s when the audience gets the rollercoaster ride that this film had been progressing towards.

If I were to describe this film, I’d call it a very suspenseful—a home invasion type of flick that’ll intensify your nerve endings, making you ready to jump out of your seat.  Disappointingly, we really don’t get too many jump scares, but when they happen, it’s amazing and not forced.  The film, as a whole, works so well and keeps you at the edge of your seat, especially during the scenes where the three friends have broken into the house while the Blind Man is asleep inside.  Every movement or sound they make will have you cringing, knowing full well that the man must have more acute hearing or other senses, and you’re just waiting for him to catch these kids in the act of their crime.  The film is very entertaining and exciting in that aspect.

Besides directing this terrifying film, Fede Alvarez co-writes this story with Rodo Sayagues, who has worked with Alvarez on most of his work.  They really seem to know each other and work well together because they'd truly created a work of art with the Evil Dead reboot as well as Don’t Breathe. 

Stephen Lang has been in the business for quite some time, starting off as a character actor that you’d probably seen dozens of time to a major screen presence that you can’t help but to take notice.  The first time I really had taken notice was when he played the central villain in the action-comedy, The Hard Way, opposite James Woods and Michael J. Fox.  You might also remember him as Ike from the film, Tombstone, playing one of the of outlaws of the Cowboys posse.  However, most will probably know him as Colonel Miles Quaritch from Avatar.  It seems the more I watch films, the more he pops up in some obscure flick, and that speaks volumes about his acting prowess.  You can see all the films I’d just mentioned and you can almost think you’re seeing a different actor in each one. 

Dylan Minnette is another actor that’s popping up here and there as he firmly plants his feet in film and television.  Although he’s got quite a résumé in TV, I can’t help but to remember him best as the bully that gets his in the terrific Let Me In.  Most recently, I’d seen him in the highly entertaining Goosebumps movie, so it seems like he’s taking the next step in the more mature world of acting by taking part in Don’t Breathe.

I almost didn’t recognize where I’d seen Jane Levy before, realizing I’ve seen her recently in the reboot of Evil Dead.  Though she has a smaller summary of productions that she’s been featured in, it’s going to be interesting where her career goes after the release of her next starring role—Monster Trucks.

Daniel Zovatto, as the character of Money, primarily plays the douche bag here.  He’s the one you don’t care about within the bunch as he’s here to be the instigator, being the push of the story to get our three main characters into the Blind Man’s house and get the action started.

I’ll say this—of course, without spoiling any of the plot—this film takes a sick turn, leaving you appalled by the twist that shows up within the third act.  It was something I really did not expect at all and it really caught me off guard, leaving me cringing during a key point of the climax.

My final “bit” on Don’t Breathe?

Maybe the only problem I have with the story is suspending disbelief that Alex would be friends with these other two.  Even more difficult to believe is that Rocky would have anything to do with a lowlife like Money, especially when we see that her mother is involved with someone of that same caliber.  However, I’d only thought that way in the beginning and it became more easy to accept as the story moved on, especially after being treated to some character development of each of the friends, especially Rocky.  All in all, Fede Alvarez is an awesome filmmaker and I am quickly becoming a fan of his work, waiting with bated breath to see what’s coming down the line for him.  He knows how to create an atmosphere, doesn’t give us unbelievable scenarios, and can get the audience to relate to everything that happens on screen.  The camera work is excellent, making this average-looking house seem like a giant maze.  He and Rodo Sayagues wrote an excellent story here, covering all bases to explain why no one is calling the cops or coming over to investigate the commotion.  I like what they did here and I can’t wait to add this to my home media collection.

Thanks for reading!

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