From director Fede Alvarez and producer Sam Raimi comes new horror film Don’t Breathe, sung in my head to the tune of ‘Don’t Speak’ by No Doubt.
Trying to steal a large sum of cash, three burglars (Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette and Daniel Zovatto) break into a blind man’s (Stephen Lang) house. One of them justifies it by saying: “Just ‘cos he’s blind don’t mean he’s a fucking saint!” But they don’t know the half of it.
A few things don’t make sense. The burglars gain access to houses because one of their dads runs a security firm, so they steal the house keys from his office. Surely a string of burglaries in homes secured by the same company would be suspicious.
Then they decide to rob the man while he’s actually in the house, which seems foolish – blind or otherwise. In fairness, they’ll be fine as long as they don’t make any noise or start pushing buttons or texting each other. And that’s exactly what they do, until their phones die – a staple of modern horror movies. But after a shaky start, pretty soon we’re the ones shaking.
They quickly find themselves locked in the house, and the film becomes an inverted home-invasion picture. The man turns out to be highly resourceful, and so does Alvarez. His direction is playful and menacing, creating a cruel sense of dramatic irony. The camerawork is effective, using long takes and slow crawls to crank up the tension.
Avatar villain Lang is a formidable figure, delivering a threateningly physical performance. All the characters appear to have been let down by the system, and the film manages to create some sympathy for one of the burglars by showing her deprived home life.
Admittedly Jeremy Saulnier did this type of claustro-horror better in this year’s Green Room, and Don’t Breathe is neither as smart nor as realistic. But its increasingly messed-up plot and increasingly brutal violence keep us watching through parted fingers.