Cinematic Releases: Don't Breathe (2016) - Reviewed

Don't Breathe has an intriguing premise--three young adults break into the house of a blind war veteran to steal his settlement cash. Unfortunately, while this film has some good ideas, most of them are implemented rather poorly.

The film takes place in Detroit though most of it was filmed in Hungary. It seems that Detroit was chosen as the locale to make it seem more "urban" and desolate but it doesn't add anything to the story. It could have taken place anywhere else and still been exactly the same (especially since most of it takes place inside a single house). The three main protagonists Rocky (Jane Levey), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and "Money" (Daniel Zovatto) have the bare minimum of character development needed to carry the story. Rocky is given a little extra backstory to make the audience care about her, but for the most part they are two-dimensional and disposable. Steven Lang steals the show as the old blind guy though and he is truly frightening (and buff as hell).

Where the movie trips up is with the addition of a superfluous side plot that adds nothing to the story. This film needed to be tight and lean and focus on the interplay between the victims and the blind man. When the narrative focuses on the cat-and-mouse interactions is where it shines and there are a few heart-stopping moments that play out. There are a lot of jump scares though and I always find those to be a sign of lazy horror film making. I wanted this movie to feel more claustrophobic and suffocating, but it's disjointed. It's almost like two different movies mashed together and it can't quite find its tone.

Alright. Who stole the sandwich from the blind guy? Once I find my can of Pabst, I'm gonna beat your hipster ass. 

On the plus side, Don't Breathe is well filmed and visually looks excellent. There are some really neat tracking shots and cinematography and they convey how the blind man has heightened other senses in a unique way. The music is bland and nondescript--it doesn't enhance the film but it isn't detrimental either. It's just...there.  It looks much higher budget than it is--I suspect that is because it takes place in one location (which is smart). I wish that the film had been more focused because all the elements were there for an original horror film. I do give director Fede Alvarez props for trying something new though, because I was not a huge fan of his Evil Dead remake. Really. all this film needed was more script editing because the first two acts are pretty tight. The third act is where everything falls apart because the ideas and characters aren't fleshed out enough.

While this movie isn't a complete failure, on the whole it's just average with a few interesting spots. For a genre film it isn't unwatchable, but it is ultimately forgettable.

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-Michelle Kisner