WARNING: The following review contains spoilers, I’m telling you now so you don’t pretend to be outraged later.
The City of Detroit just can’t catch a break. Nobody has taken a bigger beating than Motown the last couple of decades. From record high unemployment, the auto industry leaving them in the dust, and the Lions going 0-16; Detroit has become the epitome of all things fucked. So it’s no surprise that Hollywood treats it like the zombie apocalypse hit and then the zombies left to look for a stable real estate market. Perhaps this is time for the motor city to make a comeback. Perhaps it’s time to show the city where the murder rate is plummeting, businesses are returning to the city in record numbers, the Pistons can finish higher than 8th in the Eastern conference. Maybe in 2016, it’s time to portray a different kind of Detroit…nah, the city still sucks, here’s Don’t Breathe.
A group of amateur thieves run around the suburbs of Detroit breaking into homes and stealing items of low value to survive. Our main character Rocky, played by Jane Levy, lives in the same 8 Mile trailer park once owned by Eminem and even comes with its very own shitty neglectful parents and sympathetic toddler of abuse. Rocky wants to take her daughter and move to California for a better life but the problem is obviously that they are poor and have no money. Rocky’s boyfriend Money (No that’s his real name) tells the group that there is a house in town sitting on 300 grand. After finding out the person that owns the home is a blind veteran who is the only person living in the creepiest part of town, the Rocky, Money and Third Wheel played by Dylan Minnette decides to pull off one more job and then get the hell outta dodge.
A few weeks ago, I went on a rant about modern day horror films saying how they solely rely on jump scares and gore. A tired formula that does more to startle you rather than scare you. Don’t breathe however goes a different route in keeping its scares based on tension and twists giving you a thrill ride of emotions. The plot is simple and straight to the point, 3 people need to break into a home, find the safe, get the money, and get out. The problem is the old blind man played by Stephen Lang is basically Daredevil if he got old and lived alone self-fortified prison. Despite being literally the only living person on his entire block, this old man has more security measures than the Pentagon and someone with that many locks on his door must be hiding something dark. The group finds a door but gets cut off by the old man who kills Money in front of Rocky and takes his body. It is here where the film becomes a cat and mouse maze where two people try to survive a psychotic madman who can’t see.
The pace is similar to an old Resident Evil game. Rocky and Alex scramble around the house to find anything that will get them out alive. Rocky conflicts with stealing the money but even when they obtain it, it does them not favors in their predicament. Stephen Lang is brilliant in his role as a crazy old man. There isn’t a lot of dialogue as the premise is our group must stay quiet in order to stay hidden. The film is short but keeps its pace moving swiftly with compelling twists. Just when you think things can’t get any worse for our heroes it does. One scene is it discovered that the old man’s daughter was killed by a drunk driver which damaged his mental state. Then we discover that he kidnapped his daughter’s killer and keeps her in the basement until she gives birth to his kid. When the old man accidentally kills her, he kidnaps Rocky and almost forces her to do the same leading to a very unsettling screen where she is nearly inseminated against her will. It’s little moments like this that creates a real-life sense of terror you can’t get from a typical monster movie when you are using her characters and real emotions.
The film concludes with Rocky being the sole survivor as she puts down the old man and manages to escape with the cash right before the cops show up. Later at the airport, Rocky and her daughter head for California only find out the old man has survived and will recover from his injuries. Don’t Breathe is a brutally tense thriller without having to lower itself to gimmicks such as loud noises and torture porn. The script does solid enough job knowing that it’s the visuals and the actors’ performances that sell the story. This film is exactly what horror fans have been waiting for. A fresh chapter in a failing genre that achieves in being simple and intense, but without all the cheesy gimmicks and plot induced stupidity. Don’t Breathe is one of the best horror films in the last couple of decades.
OFFICIAL RATING: *****
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