Titles with imperatives seem to be the fad of late summer films. “Don’t Breathe” like the earlier reviewed film “Don’t Think Twice” may be nods to didactic school marms, or just school room distractions. Certainly, the slasher/ heist/revenge film set amid abandoned houses in Detriot offers admonishments to drop- outs: beware of the thug route to riches. There are great costs.
Three twenty -somethings have incongruently joined forces to rob the wealthy by planning and executing home invasions. The girl, Rocky, ( Jane Levy) has had a rocky start in life with an abusive mother who would lock her in a car trunk so mom could binge drink in peace. Rocky’s psychotic boyfriend , Money, has a dollar sign tattooed on his jugular. He smashes and defiles at whim. The last of the thuggish trio is Alex (Indiana-born Dylan Minnette). He is besotted with Rocky and is instrumental in providing easy access keys by way of his father’s security guard job. Alex also is privy to the legal ramifications of major larceny etc… He is the only one measuring risks.
These three decide to target a blind Gulf War vet ( Stephen Lang). His six figure settlement has been publicized. His Buena Vista address is anything but. Somewhat of a recluse, he has lost his daughter in an car accident. And has a sick plan to compensate his loss. Secrets are discovered in the house and the genre turns upside down as the assailants become the trapped.
Camera work is everything in this genre. “Don’t Breathe” is at its best here. I was sometimes distracted by the perfect camera pace and the exquisite cinematic lighting. Perfect shadows and light beams, as well as, the use of darkness evens the score as the intruders can not see any more than the blind homeowner.
The suspense and tension are held, and the dog sequences are amazing and fresh. I hated the dialogue, which thankfully was sparse. “You are strong. You will breed well.” “Last man standing” is played out creepily.
The root cellar ladder, monster-like leg shadows, and a labyrinth of shelves, and a glass roofed skylight add to the duct crawling claustrophobia. The harness contraption and the turkey baster as sperm dispenser is adolescent. And as a vehicle for rationalizing a non-rape, stupid. The female as the most tortured sex is , also, getting old.
A ladybug metaphor with its “fly, fly away” allusion is used to maximum purpose, and a realistic “fence” tells our most crazed thief that if he wants money, he should steal money. Pawn shops may be more risky, but they are more lucrative.
Large gaps in the body count and too many sadistic encounters made me feel that Director Fede Alvarez was out-sourcing magic realism. I was lost with shoe counts, and a newly dressed victim being buried in septic tank sludge. Slasher films with a blond being dragged down the lane like a wheeled-suitcase suggest needed combat lessons, or a more enlightened trope. The ending presumably evens the score, but here watching the beach-surf just deserves a big yawn.