I am a man of guilty pleasures. There’s lots of things I’m not ashamed to admit I love. Horror movies are one of those things. I’ve seen a lot of horror movies, and most of them are pretty bad. It’s still fun to watch them, of course, but I rarely go into a slasher flick expecting to be wowed. So while the initial trailers for Don’t Breathe definitely intrigued me, I wasn’t anticipating a movie that I’d really enjoy watching.
So imagine my surprise one and half (ish) hours later. As I walked out of the theatre, I found I was very pleased with the film I just watched. Don’t Breathe starts quickly and dives into it’s basic premise, but rapidly evolves into something far more sinister than I imagined.
The plot of the film follows three young adults (it’s unclear if they’re in high school or not). One of the two boys, Alex, is the son of a man who installs home security devices. Using Alex’ connections, the three are able to break into homes and steal with relative safety.
The other two, Money and his girlfriend Rocky, wish to save up and leave Detroit. They convince Alex to do one big job that’ll rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars. The plan is break into the house of an old army vet made a bunch of money in a lawsuit settlement. His house is situated in the midst of several empty blocks, so they would be plenty secluded. Additionally, they discover the man is blind. While at first this makes them somewhat uncertain, they decide to go ahead with their plan.
The man turns out to be less hampered by his blindness than originally anticipated. The would-be-thieves become trapped inside the house while the blind veteran attempts to hunt them down. I won’t spoil anything, but the plot unfolds and evolves in multiple unexpected ways, each of which leaves you more disturbed than before.
The three thieves are acted with admirable skill. Daniel Zovatto’s character Money is extremely unlikable in a very likable way. He constantly abuses everyone around him and is generally just a dick. Rocky, played by the lovely Jane Levy, is full of pent up rage. She hates where she is in life and wants more than anything to get out. Levy does a great job of having this shell of anger fall apart as things go haywire in the film. When Rocky is hurt (and she does get hurt) we feel it, and we don’t like it. Alex meanwhile, played by Dylan Minnette, is the most good a character can be. He provides a brilliant foil to Money’s brutishness and Rocky’s anger, but without every becoming annoying.
The true star of the show, however, is Stephen Lang. The Blind Man (his name is never revealed) is constantly teetering on emotional edges. He bounces back and forth between blind hatred and fear in the blink of an eye. The character might appear totally calm because he thinks the room is empty. Then another character will make a sound and Lang will shift tone in the span of a heartbeat.
Lang delivers the Blind Man’s lines and eventual backstory with a calm and ragged sense of detachment that feels like it claws at your ears. The disturbing events that he eventually participates in are almost nauseating. Don’t Breathe does an amazing job of not just scaring the audience but horrifying them. Sometimes things happen in the movie that don’t scare you at all. Instead, they leave you chilled to the core, feeling like your worldview has been shattered. Lang’s performance is a major component of that. The man deserves more props than I can give.
I went into Don’t Breathe expecting at best a novel thriller and at worst a cheap slasher flick. What I got instead was one of my new favorite horror films, and one of the first movies in a while I’m actually excited to watch again. I’d heartily recommend Don’t Breathe to anyone who enjoys watching a movie that makes you scared.