Took two of my teens to see the new thriller Don’t Breathe today and lemme just tell y’all, it was not what I expected. Even though I tried to go into the movie with zero expectations (all I knew was what I’d seen in the original trailer; I read no reviews and none of my immediate circle had seen it yet), I knew that Sam Raimi was a producer and I didn’t expect him to sign off on a piece of crap. So, while I knew the initial premise — three young adults decide to rob a blind guy in his own home — I went in expecting an average suspense. And then, I got the wind knocked outta me.
Close quarters make for some very powerful dread.
Roughly five minutes of set-up was all it took to make Rocky (very deftly portrayed by the cherub-faced girl-next-door, Jane Levy) the criminal you’re rootin’ for, due to the stock set-up. We’re not lookin’ at deep character development here, Friends, but that’s okay because Levy was aptly supported by her co-star Dylan Minnette who played her platonic, moon-eyed friend Alex. Daniel Zovatto, who played Money, gave us enough spot-on machismo to quickly decipher the fact that “ah, here’s the asshole boyfriend everyone wants to see get it.”
Minnette and Levy give their most thrilling performances when they don’t have to rely on dialogue.
Going in, I couldn’t quite imagine a hunk like Stephen Lang being too thoroughly icky as The Blind Man. Menacing? Yes. Scary as hell? Yes. But gross? I was surprised what blinding Lang’s baby blues and slathering him with grime and sweat, and costuming him in a blood-stained wife-beater could do. In such close quarters, the viewers could almost smell his grime and rage. Nods to the costuming and lighting departments for the former, but all of the menace and rage should be squarely placed on the shoulders of Lang’s years of theater performances.
It gets truly intense when Lang’s Blind Man levels the playing field.
After 10 Cloverfield Lane, I was a bit skeptical that writer/director Fede Alvarez was going to be able to keep us glued to our seats, but he did it. This gripping twist on the current Home Invasion trend delivers all the nerve-wracking anxiety, claustrophobia, and suspense a thrill seeker could hope for.
As I said, this isn’t a deep character study. This is an action-packed thriller with lots of long silent (and terrifying) silences. The momentum depends almost exclusively on the character’s action — or inaction, if you will. With so few principle characters and the limited space of a single family dwelling, it’s easy to wonder how the action and angst can be sustained. Don’t worry. This home-owner may be blind, but he knows his own home like the back of his hand. It’s believable when he appears everywhere and nowhere at any given moment. And, when he cuts the lights, those poor kids don’t stand a chance. There’s nothin’ as gratifying as a fair fight. Is there?
Before the crew of hopeful home invaders decide to execute their plan, Alex wonders whether or not robbing a blind man might be a skeevy move. Well, in hindsight I would advise, “Hey, you prolly shouldn’t disturb this guy. He’s disturbed enough.”