Don’t breathe. Don’t move. Don’t speak. Don’t steal. Don’t fuck with a blind man.
The movie focuses on a trio of burglars – Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto). They receive a tip for the perfect job; a blind war veteran (Stephen Lang) lives in a rundown neighborhood with few residents and has almost half a million dollars in his house. Sounds easy until they realize he’s not going to let them leave, and he has something sinister in his basement.
“Don’t Breathe” had me sold on its old school premise, a poster reminiscent of 70’s horror movies, and the new twist on the tiresome home invasion genre. It delivers for the most part, but writer/director Fede Alvarez (“Evil Dead” remake) should have quit while he was ahead.
SPOILER TERRITORY FROM HERE ON!
The first act does a great job establishing the setup and the characters. We see that Money is a stereotypical gangster, but he also cares for Rocky enough to sacrifice himself. Alex is hopelessly in love with Rocky, and goes along with the plan to help her. Rocky comes from a dysfunctional family and is determined to steal the Blind Man’s money to leave with her sister.
The second act is masterfully crafted and unbearably tense. Between the minimum dialogue, a David Fincher-style tracking shot,the dog chases, and Lang’s chilling performance as the Blind Man, “Don’t Breathe” is horror movie heaven. Then the final act happens.
The final act features a big plot twist involving the Blind Man’s background and a hostage in his basement. It’s very left field, unrestrained, and disgusting. Luckily, a grotesque turkey baster sequence only lasts a minute, but then we get to the ending.
When Rocky escapes the house, it cuts to black for a moment, which would have been a perfect ending, and made me give the movie a higher grade. But we get an unnecessary epilogue that leaves room open for plot holes and unwanted sequels.
If Alvarez had just focused on the Blind Man’s prisoner without the rape twist, it would have been compelling and disturbing enough to still keep me invested. Rape is a tasteless, cheap horror trope. Alvarez could have easily redeemed himself if he just ended the movie at the fade-to-black, excluding the epilogue.
I’d still recommend “Don’t Breathe” (just barely) for Stephen Lang’s performance, as he’s currently one of the best on-screen villains of the year, in a year with several tame villains. It is well-directed, but not for the faint of heart.