Disclosure: I really, really didn’t want to go to the screening for Don’t Breathe. Not because it looks bad or anything. Rather, I saw it when it had its world premiere earlier this year at SXSW, and I don’t know if it was the high-energy festival atmosphere or it being the tail end of a very long, exhausting day or what, but it left me shaking. This movie freaked me the fuck out, and I don’t like being freaked the fuck out. I would rather watch Bridget Jones’s Diary for the hundredth time. But hey, it’s been months, so I need to see it again, or else my review is “yah it was scary I guess, but it’s weird how Kevin Spacey turned into a cat. Oh wait, that’s Nine Lives.”
Don’t Breathe: Scary as shit even when you know exactly what’s going to happen.
The plot here is nothing groundbreaking; in fact, it’s downright formulaic. Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette), and Money (Daniel Zovatto) use keys and security codes pilfered from Alex’s dad, who works at a home security company, to rob houses. For Rocky, it’s not just about greed—she needs funds to move with her little sister to California, enabling them to escape their abusive mother and her deadbeat, swastika-tattooed boyfriend. The trio discovers the perfect mark: A middle-aged man (Stephen Lang) supposedly sitting on $300k in settlement money, paid out after the daughter of a wealthy family killed his daughter in a drunk driving incident. The guy’s a war vet, but he lives by himself in a derelict part of Detroit—no neighbors to witness the crime—and, oh yeah, he’s blind. Should be easy pickings.
Except, if you’ve seen the trailer, you know it’s not easy pickings. Rocky, Alex, and Money’s supposed victim—he has no name, and is referred to in the credits only as “The Blind Man”—has some secrets of his own, and once our trio of robbers stumble upon them… well, it’s not like he can let them leave.
Also, it’s Stephen Lang. You don’t ever fuck with Stephen Lang.
Director Fede Alvarez (the 2013 Evil Dead remake, also starring Levy) has crafted a tight, relentless thriller that over the course of its 88-minute running time ratchets up tension to a squirm-inducing degree. There’s not an ounce of fat on this movie, which makes it a welcome change of pace from any number of overstuffed Hollywood blockbusters that have come out this summer. If the plot and characters are all fairly standard, the way they’re presented is remarkably effective. Stephen Lang, in particular, is exactly how Stephen Lang should be: virtually non-verbal and intent on murder. Levy’s a great horror heroine, mixing “what in the fuck did I just get into” terror with an instinctual determination to do whatever it takes to survive the night. This is a good horror movie to see in a crowded theater, because there are “OH SHIT” moments in abundance; for our protagonists (not “heroes,” because they are after all trying to rob a blind guy’s house), the night keeps going from bad to worse.
I can neither confirm nor deny that Kevin Spacey is in this movie, and he is a cat.