You can certainly tell it’s not only getting to be the dog days of summer but also the summer movie season, which is going out with a whimper — at least as far as this year’s obligatory cheapie Screen Gems end-of-August release goes. Don’t Breathe is a pretty good title for an ultra-violent, ultra-derivative and ultra-nauseating suspense thriller in which a blind old ex-military man (Stephen Lang) squares off against a trio of young thieves out to rob him. But the movie is more of an assault than a sharp example of a genre that has been turned over to directors with nothing but blood and carnage on their minds.
As I say in my video review above, this one comes from Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez, whose 2013 debut was an ill-considered remake of the Sam Raimi horror classic Evil Dead. Raimi must have appreciated it though as he is one of the producers of this thing, which rather shockingly got fairly unanimous good reviews when it premiered at SXSW in March. I guess I am not the target audience, which even with a strong R rating is basically teenagers.
The plot is simply an excuse for the bloodletting, but it revolves around this trio of young toughs: a woman Rocky (Jane Levy) out for a better life for her sister, and needing cash to do it; her hot-headed BF Money (Daniel Zovatto); and the other friend Alex (Dylan Minnette), who goes along with their plan to rob this innocent blind man of the money they know is stashed somewhere in his large dilapidated house in the outskirts of Detroit. The man and his ferocious dog are sleeping when our trio breaks in to try to find their buried treasure, as it were. Knowing he is blind and that he received a handsome settlement over the tragic accidental death of his daughter, they think he should be easy prey. In fact, the plan is to sneak in, take the loot, and never wake him up. Of course things go terribly wrong and in no time they realize they are in way over their empty heads with this guy, who has fighting skills second to none. (And when he is incapacitated, his dog does clean-up.) They realize after taking him on that the best thing would be to get out of there, but like most movies of this ilk, that just doesn’t happen. Let the fun really begin.
Where these contemporary non-stop carnivals of kill always lose me is that the characters can go crashing through glass ceilings, be tossed out of buildings and pummeled to near-certain death — but still get up to fight in another scene like it was just a harmless punch. Oy. This movie, though competently directed by Alvarez, gave me a headache. Thank god for Lang, who lends a certain dignity to the proceedings even as he lets the blood run. There is a twist midway designed to make our thugs a little more sympathetic, and our blind man a little more maniacal, but it is so contrived it completely lost me. I still was rooting for the blind man. SPOILER ALERT: Think of the Oscar Best Picture nominee Room and you will get the idea. I liked the dog a lot. He (actually it is a trio of dogs taking on the role) is worth the price of admission. Two paws up for him.
Alvarez and Raimi are producers along with Rob Tapert. Sony releases this Friday.
Do you plan to see Don’t Breathe? Let us know what you think.