Sunday, August 28, 2016

Don't Breathe

Rocky lives with her crude, drunk mother and dreams of taking her daughter away to live in California. To achieve this, she, her boyfriend Money, and her friend Alex have been robbing rich houses. Their final score lies in a humble looking house in a deserted neighborhood with a blind man. The job seems perfect from the victim to the setting to the huge amount of money, so they decide to go through with it. The situation takes an unexpected turn soon after they enter the fortified house as the blind veteran isn't as helpless as they thought.

I've been extremely hyped for Don't Breathe for months now and I wasn't disappointed at all. The film starts by introducing the main characters and their way of life. Rocky lives in an awful situation and just wants to get out of Detroit with her daughter. Alex is in love with Rocky and doesn't want to leave his dad. I find this ironic since he can get his dad in huge trouble since he's been using his father's security company access to get into each of the houses he robs with his friends. Money (what a dumb name) is simply an idiot who acts like a gangster and would rather look cool than stay safe when robbing houses. His relationship with Rocky isn't well established. It's clear he's there to show how dangerous the blind man really is without having much emotional impact to the audience. I was relieved to see him gone and to see his tough guy persona leave him before it happened.

The house was hard to break into, but breaking out of it proves to be the hardest part for Rocky and Alex. They have to stay as silent as possible with their steps, their attempts to get out of the house, and even their breathing. I have never been so aware of every little sound in the film and of the people around me. The sound design is amazing and heightened the tension as it grew throughout the movie. The background music wasn't a conventional movie score, but ambient sounds heard in life like a low roar that's more felt than heard, high pitched whines, and other subtle sounds that highlight the silence and the noises the characters made. Even breathing or the sounds of cloth brushing on across a surface started to sound uncomfortably loud after a while.

The blind man at first seems like a tragic character: a war vet who lost his sight in a grenade accident and then later lost his daughter to a careless rich driver who never saw a day in jail for it. He rarely leaves his house and his giant doberman is his only companion. As the film goes it, the man shows he isn't as helpless as he looks and hunts the young thieves with the drive and energy of a Terminator. He predicts many of their movements with eerie accuracy, but he shows his humanity in small moments. The opening scene shows him dragging Rocky down a deserted but sunny street by her hair. There's something incredibly terrifying about being out in the open like that with no one to help and it brings to mind a scene in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre when Leatherface drags a girl into his house in broad daylight while she's screaming and struggling.

The only flaw with this movie (besides some characters being unnaturally hard to kill) is in one line. The blind man says, "There's nothing a man cannot achieve when he accepts there is no god." It's annoying because people will point to this line to reaffirm their belief that atheists are evil due to their lack of belief. Obviously the blind man's not the most mentally healthy person, but it's an annoying line nonetheless. It doesn't play a huge role in the film, but the blind man says so little that it's a significant line for him.

Other than one tiny flaw, Don't Breathe is a tense film with some unexpected twists and turns. Fede Alvarez takes the tension and terror of the scene near end of The Silence of the Lambs where Buffalo Bill is hunting Clarice in the dark with his night vision goggles and extends it to a feature length film. One scene in the film was so disturbing and disgusting that I could hear other viewers almost gagging. If you can see it in the theater, please do because the sound design won't be the same if you watch it at home. Seeing it in a sold out theater of people who were really into the film enhanced the viewing experience as well.

My rating; 4.9/5 fishmuffins

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