Fede Alvarez’s attempt to tackle an Evil Dead remake/sequel/whatever it was intended to be, didn’t quite take off. It lost that spark which made the original the enduring classic it is today and replaced it with a nastiness. However, nasty doesn’t necessarily mean bad and in that nastiness, there was something that made you want to keep an eye on what would come next.
Well, what came next is Don’t Breathe, a film in which that nastiness is both the best and worst thing about it. Set in Detroit, it follows three teenagers who are attempting to fund their way out of town via some good old fashioned breaking and entering. Aided by keys swiped from Alex’s (Dylan Minnette) father – who runs a security firm – they plan one final heist. A large cash windfall from a blind military vet who received it in compensation after his daughter was hit by a car. Of course, the heist turns out to be not quite as simple as they assumed.
The three kids are set up as pretty standard horror fare. There’s the nice one – the aforementioned Alex – the not so nice one – the gun wielding Money (Daniel Zovatto) – and the one who is doing it all to get her sister away from their alcoholic mother – Rocky (Jane Levy). Where the film impresses, is in the way it turns your sympathies towards them. While Rocky’s story is a walking cliche, you do find yourself rooting for her come the end.
Some credit for which also has to go to Stephen Lang who plays the blind man they go to war with. Over the course of the film, he goes from the poor unsuspecting victim to a terrifying force of nature without ever once losing the feeling that he is dealing with that disability. The violence he dishes out is harsh and quick and because of that, it feels all the more impactful. When he hits someone, it looks like it hurts.
And that is where Alvarez’s predilection for nastiness is at its best. The initial plot of three kids being hunted around a house by a blind man who is smarter and stronger than them leads to some interesting conflicts. How does he keep them in there? And even if they are trapped with him what can he do to them if he can’t see them? It’s a simple but smart premise, and it should be enough to carry this film.
Yet, it apparently wasn’t. For where that nastiness turns back on its director is in a third act twist that steps over the line. There will be no spoilers here, of course, but it’s a move that takes the film from a tightly scripted and well-plotted home invasion movie and instead leaves an icky taste in the mouth.
Which is frustrating, because it’s not something this film needs and even with it this is still an enjoyable watch. However, as someone who usually enjoys their movies to be more than a little disturbed, it went in a direction that leaves me with mixed views on this film. On one hand, you have a nice twist on the home invasion angle. Perhaps not an entirely original one – for one thing, it bears comparison to Hush which you can find on Netflix – but a well executed one. But it’s hard to get past the feeling that Alvarez’s wish to be as nasty and shocking as possible, has let him down once again.