How much will even a horror audience get behind a group of young miscreants who want to rob a disabled US veteran, billed only as The Blind Man (Stephen Lang) in the latest offering from Ghost House Pictures, “Don’t Breathe”?
He also lost his only daughter in a car accident, which is why he’s rumored to be loaded; the rich parents of the young lady who killed his daughter pulled some strings, got her off the charges, and settled out of court for a huge sum. Even with such a large settlement, he’s so sad and lonely he hasn’t bothered to move from his derelict home, nestled in the remains of an abandoned Detroit neighborhood. He’d rather just be left alone with his grief and his guard dog.
Into his house breaks our three leads, Alex (Dylan Minnette) the Brains of the group; Money (Daniel Zovatto) the Brawn, and Rocky (Jane Levy) the Beauty destined to survive, because Girl.
But the Blind Man turns out to be more than some helpless mark in a darkened house. He’s a survivor who soon turns the tables on our despicable trio, trapping them inside his home-sweet-maze full of bolted doors and barred windows. Not only can he hear their every move, he even pulls a Daredevil occasionally, smelling the shoes they’ve removed in order to move around silently. It’s during this claustrophobic cat-and-mouse that “Don’t Breathe” works best. A great use of negative space and silent passages lure the audience to the edge of their seats, hanging on every pin drop for a clue before the next explosive discovery is sprung…
At least until the third act, when it turns into yet another episode of Stupid People Doing Stupid Things, and developments border on the ridiculous before descending into the gross. Our Blind Man turns out to be more loathsome than our leads, tempting the audience to think that they all deserve whatever they get; except what they get is so awful it’s offensive. No one escapes unscathed, as crazy vets, Rottweilers, rich kids, the legal system, and Detroit as a whole are paraded about in the worst possible way for our amusement. Although Sam Raimi is a producer, gone is his trademark tongue-in-cheek gore played for laughs, replaced instead with playing-for-keeps sadism. If that’s what feeds you as a horror fan, “Don’t Breathe” dishes it out. For everyone else, take a pass.
Rated R for terror, violence, disturbing content, and language including sexual references
Director: Fede Alvarez
Writers: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues
Stars: Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette