Don't Breathe

 

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Three young burglars break into a blind man’s house and get more than they bargained for…

 

Don't breathe
Breathless: Dylan Minnette and Jane Levy 

  

Don’t breathe, because the blind man might hear you. Although deprived of his sight, his other senses are more finely attuned. And his house is his domain. You’d think that three able-bodied young people could outfox an old blind man, but you’d be wrong.

 

It’s a crazy premise, yet Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues’ skilful script and the former’s accomplished direction keep it all pretty plausible. In a deserted urban street – credibly, because we’re in Detroit – three petty thieves break into the one remaining house with an occupant. The latter (Stephen Lang) is understood to have $300,000 in cash, paid to him as a settlement for the death of his daughter in a car accident. An army vet who fought in Iraq, the man lost his sight from a grenade splinter and then lost his only daughter. All he has left is the cash to cater to his modest needs.

 

The intruders who break into his house are incorrigible burglars and are not above trashing the houses they rob. And as for the blind man, the callous Money (Daniel Zovatto, from It Follows) sneers, “just because he’s blind doesn’t mean he’s a fucking saint, bro’”. These are not nice people. Yet Fede Alvarez’s Don’t Breathe is smart enough that it not only repeatedly overturns our expectations, but juxtaposes our sympathies as well. That’s a helluva juggling act to pull off. Part of the film’s success is that the three intruders are provided with pithy back-stories and you can’t blame them for wanting to make enough money to get out of Detroit. And poor old Rocky (Jane Levy, from Alvarez’s Evil Dead reboot) has had a terrible childhood and has her own young daughter’s interests at heart. But still…

 

“Ingenious” is a word too close to “genius” to be used lightly, but Don’t Breathe is one film that deserves the adjective. Marketed as a horror film, it is closer to being a thriller and sustains its suspense extraordinarily well. There are no dull patches. One could pull apart some of the film’s later surprises – the characters prove to be remarkably resilient – but then the film unleashes another curveball and one is back chewing one’s knuckles. If you’re expecting a darker Home Alone, you’ll be off the mark. There are no booby traps here.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, Stephen Lang, Franciska Töröcsik, Emma Bercovici.

 

Dir Fede Alvarez, Pro Fede Alvarez, Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert, Screenplay Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues, Ph Pedro Luque, Pro Des Naaman Marshall, Ed Eric L. Beason, Louise Ford and Gardner Gould, Music Roque Baños, Costumes Carlos Rosario.

 

Screen Gems/Ghost House Pictures-Sony Pictures.

88 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 9 September 2016. Cert. 15.