Don’t (Waste Your) Breathe (2016)
I was invited to an early screening of Don’t Breathe and, as I rarely watch horror films, felt it’d be a great idea to give this movie a shot. A little bit of background searching didn’t reveal much about this film as the actors are relatively unknown, with the exception of Lang - and to a lesser extent Levy who has been in a few television shows and films. Fede Alvarez, the director, has a record of short horror films from outside the U.S. The trailer itself was well done and gave the impression that this would be a horror thriller, which it was.
The premise of Don’t Breathe is that there are three young adults who have the means and access to houses of wealthy individuals where they commit robberies. Rocky (Jane Levy) wants to get out of her mother’s house and care for her younger sister because of a poor home life. Her friend Alex (Dylan Minnette) is the son of a man who owns a security firm and her boyfriend, Money (Daniel Zovatto) is more of the street-smart type. They have been acting with caution and precision when choosing their targets and never steal enough that it could be considered grand larceny charges resulting in federal offenses. That is, until the heist we are witness to. Though they remain precise in the execution of their plan Rocky and Money make the decision on the target. And, because Alex has a crush on Rocky, he finally comes around to agreeing on this one final heist. This is where my first problem with the film lies. They have had a tried and true tactic and now they’re opting to try something completely different with more than one additional challenge - it’s like getting out of the broken down car in the middle of a creepy forest - why do something so obviously risky? And, since they’ve been committing robberies already, where has that money gone so that Rocky can’t afford an apartment with her sister or, at the very least, a plane ticket out of town?
Though they remain precise in their plan, the trio throws caution to the wind - and, because Alex has a crush on Rocky, he comes around to this “final heist and we’re done” plan though he has holds the most reservations about it. This is where my first problem with the film lies. They have had a tried and true tactic and now they’re opting to try something completely different with more than one additional challenge - it’s like getting out of the broken down car in the middle of a creepy forest - why do something so obviously risky? And, since they’ve been committing robberies already, where has that money gone so that Rocky can’t afford an apartment with her sister or, at the very least, a plane ticket out of town?
Ignoring this first major flag we follow the trio as they plan to rob an old blind man who lives in a run-down house in Detroit because they believe he’s sitting on a few hundred thousand. Detroit is it’s own one-dimensional character where burnt housing freckles the landscape amidst open fields and bare pot-hole-ridden roads. Money drives an old Camaro (possibly late 1970s, early 80s) and is the type of guy I’d have had a crush on when I was their age. Blind Man (Lang’s character doesn’t seem to have a name, though I feel they must have mentioned it the movie at some point) has a guard dog chained outside, bars over all of his windows, and a plethora of locks on every door. Did I forget to mention that he’s a veteran? Chao ensues because Blind Man, being accustomed to every detail of his house - including the lack of human presence, noise, and mysterious positioning of things he didn’t touch - and having a military background is too good of a match for three hopeful robbers. Blind Man effectively traps them in the house to deal with them. There’s a lot of violence, some bizarre history, and an intrusive love triangle.
The twist in this film made me want to leave the theater (and remember I didn’t even pay to watch it) but I wouldn’t have been able to write this review in good conscience. I don’t want to spoil it for you in case you have intentions on seeing the film so I will say that the idea didn’t even come out of left field. It came out of the parking lot two blocks down the street from the stadium from someone who asked for five dollars so they’d “watch your car” when you already paid for parking and they don’t work for the lot. Personally, I think this movie would have been a lot better without the twist. It felt like the twist was the writer’s (Alvarez) initial idea and then he built the rest of the movie around it. After spending half the movie attempting to make the trio look like the protagonists but being unsuccessful the twist is trying to hammer home that we’re supposed to be on their team. But I felt that I had no team to root for now that Blind Man was a super creep and the thieves are still selfish criminals.
I don’t recommend spending your time or money on this movie but if you are going to see Don’t Breathe you are in for two treats. The cinematography was well-done. Pedro Luque, who also hails from Uruguay and has previously worked with Alvarez, utilized long, continuous, moving shots that go through objects, shelves, and walls which helps to keep you in the space as you move through it. The acting, in particular Levy’s (who starred in Evil Dead which is another horror film Alvarez directed) was noteworthy, especially considering they didn’t have a lot of dimension or growth to work. And if you do like it, you’re in luck because at the end of the film they hinted at a sequel and it’s in production already.
P.S. I know the title of this review doesn’t quite work.