How hard can it be to break in and rob a blind man? It’s such a simple, high-concept premise, it’s hard to believe we’ve never seen it before. And maybe we have, but it’s never been done this well.

Rocky (Jane Levy) is a young woman whose name also describes her lifestyle. She looks to be in her early 20s, living at home with her little sister and a mother who has been an alcoholic since her father left her. She’s desperate to escape this life, and early on promises her little sister she will find a way for them to leave.

These early scenes are somewhat cliche but necessary because it’s an explanation for her 4 starsmotivation in the rest of the movie. She’s tied up with wanna be thug Money (Daniel Zavotto) who’s actually her boyfriend, and wanna be boyfriend Alex (Dylan Minnette), who represent the muscle and brains of the little three-person theft ring they’ve got going on.

They find out about $300,000 they can steal from the house of a blind veteran who lives alone in a dilapidated Detroit neighbourhood. Should be easy, right?

I don’t want to give away anything that happens when they get inside his house. The blind man is played Stephen Lang, who manages to be both vulnerable and terrifying at the same time. This is not one of those movies where everything is given away in the trailer. There are some real surprises in the plot, and a twist I didn’t see coming at all, but which fully explains things that may have seemed like plot holes up to that point.

One of my favourite movie scenes of all time is in Silence of the Lambs, when Carlice Starling realizes she’s standing in front of the serial killer she’s looking for and begins chasing him through his house. He hides in a room, wearing night vision glasses, and shuts the lights out when she comes in. Clarice can’t see the killer, but he can see her, playfully waving his hand within inches of her face. (I have goosebumps describing it.)

This movie is that scene, but in reverse. The predator can’t see anything and the prey are often within inches of being discovered. And it’s almost as effective, even stretched over the full hour or so we’re inside the house.

My only complaint about how the story is told is the opening scene. It gives away too much, and shows you how things are going to end up, before they even begin. As thrilling as some of the scenes in the house are, you know from the opening shot you’re eventually going to be getting back to that point, where the story picks up again. It was unnecessary because we didn’t have to know that to get into the story.

The other small bone I have to pick, pun intended, is with the blind man’s viscous dog. There’s one scene where it does something I don’t think any dog could do without months of dedicated training. And later, in a confrontation between Rocky and the dog, how she chooses to deal with it creates an interesting scene, but I found myself asking if anyone in real life would ever do what she does to try to resolve the situation.

There are so many schlocky, predictable horror/things-that-go-bump-in-the-night type of movies nowadays that when something like this comes along, you need to tell fellow movie fans about it, so it doesn’t get lumped in. Don’t Breathe is an excellent thriller whose claustrophobic narrative serves its simple and original premise very well.

 

Title Don’t Breathe
Director Fede Alvarez
Writer Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues
Runtime 88 min
Starring Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette
Production Screen Gems, Stage 6 Films, Ghost House Pictures
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