Three years after Evil Dead, actress Jane Levy and director Federico Álvarez are reunited in the surprising Don’t Breathe (2016), and the result is terrific.
The plot is simple. Three small-time thieves – Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) rob houses in Detroit.
Being tired of small jobs that are badly paid, Money plans a crime that might change their lives: They will break in a blind man’s house (Stephen Lang) who has thousands of dollars in a safe in his mansion, given as a settlement after a wealthy woman killed his daughter in a car accident. They foolishly think it will be an easy job because of the man’s disability, but the old war veteran is tougher than he seems. In fact, the man is more dangerous than they are and has many things to hide, especially in his basement. The burglary turns into a trap for the robbers who are locked in the house and hunted down by the man and his lovely, drooling pitbull. The nightmare begins, and the set behind closed doors is perfect to increase the tension.
Mainly shot indoors, the film plunges you into the darkness of the house, since the robbery takes place in the middle of the night, and the thieves do not put the lights on so as not to reveal their presence, even though the man is blind and has no neighbors. Everything is then gathered to make you feel as if you were in the house yourself, trapped with the others and almost as blind as the antagonist. Together with the human targets, you explore the place and try to find a way out, so do not watch the movie if you are claustrophobic! Sound is thus very important. Indeed, as the veteran cannot see, he has developed his others senses, especially hearing. So, every single sound is intensified to the man who makes full use of his extremely sharp ear to track down his prey.
Stephen Lang perfectly masters his role, and Levy is credible in hers, even though Alvarez could have spent more time on their story. The plot is clear but somewhat classical. Indeed, Rocky is a young tattooed rebel girl who is trying to get away to California with her sister because of their alcoholic mother. Hence, we sympathize with this girl who has no choice but to steal money to survive. On the other hand, her companions are not developed enough. They are both convincing in their roles but we practically do not know anything about them, except that one is the stereotype of the bad guy (Money) while the other is the kind and lovable guy who is in love with a girl he can’t have (Alex). Here, the director did not take many risks…
Another possible negative point in the movie is that the first 15 to 20 minutes are a little slow for thrill-seekers. You have to wait until one of the thieves dies (try to guess which one) to have the film really started. Yet, we can’t blame Fede Alvarez for that. It is better to have a slow beginning but a reliable story than a murder every five minutes without a real storyline. However, there is a point that is very disappointing: the very end of the movie. Indeed, it is a little far-fetched, and in such way as to suggest that the director has already planned to make a sequel.
Conclusion? On the whole, the plot, the cast and the production are good. The film has grossed $152.8 million worldwide for a budget of $9.9 million, despite little publicity campaign. It was an unexpected success that shows that Jane Levy and Fede Alvarez are well on the road to master this film genre. It may not be the best horror movie you will see in your life, but still, get ready to hold your breath!
Jane Levy as Rocky
Stephen Lang as Norman Nordstrom / “The Blind Man”
Dylan Minnette as Alex
Daniel Zovatto as Money
Franciska Törőcsik as Cindy Roberts
Emma Bercovici as Diddy
Christian Zagia as Raul
Katia Bokor as Ginger
Sergej Onopko as Trevor
Directed by Fede Alvarez
Produced by Fede Alvarez, Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert
Written by Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues
Running time 88 minutes
Budget $9.9 million Box office $141 million
Premier at South by Southwest on March 12, 2016
Released on August 26, 2016, by Screen Gems