It has been our custom, as of a few years ago, to go to the movies right before the annual Halloween Haunt jaunt. Although Knott’s is only 50 miles away, it’s not 50 miles you would want to drive on a weekday in rush hour. So, we’d get there earlier and earlier, and hang out in the hotel until I thought, well, heck, rather than just sit around, let’s go to a movie. And, traditionally, it’s a horror movie, because, you know: get in the mood! I was a little nervous this year, because we weren’t staying in the hotel, experimentally, which meant I had to time everything just so, or wind up sitting around in the car or the parking lot or whatever.
Traditionally, also, we go to see a second run film: There’s usually a horror we want to catch before it goes away, and since we visit Knott’s on a Thursday, there’s a good chance that’ll be our last opportunity, but The Boy was hot to see this remake of Wait Until Dark called Don’t Breathe. So we saw that.
I’m kidding, mostly, about it being a Wait Until Dark remake. But here’s the plot: A team of thieves (two guys and a girl) break into a house to make that One Big Score only to find the tenant of the house is far more dangerous than—waitaminute. Didn’t we just see this movie? (What’s sort of funny there, is that people complained about Crush The Skull being a rip-off of an earlier, similar movie, but I think we can at least go back to Thief to find a similar story, and probably far further.)
Anyway, in this take, the smart guy is helping the dumb guy and the dumb guy’s desperate girl friend break into the house of a veteran who received a huge cash settlement after his daughter was killed in an auto accident years earlier. They figure the guy being blind makes him an easy target. They figure wrong!
This is a good, gripping film, though I couldn’t help but whispering to The Boy “Everyone knows you need at least TWO MONTHS of staking out a house before robbing it!” Hell, the dumb guys in Crush The Skull were lambasted for only staking out their place for two weeks. Meanwhile, these guys walk in not knowing where the money they’re looking for is, not knowing whether it’s even there really, and the smart guy goes for it because he’s sweet on the girl. Which is, I guess, realistic.
Well, before you can say “inexplicably buff shut-in war vet with Jedi powers”, the three of them are in a heap of trouble, as they encounter Stephen Lang (Avatar, Public Enemies) who seems less concerned about the money than he is about other things.
The action is great. This movie goes in a cycle of tension, suspense, action, horror and back. Director Fede Alvarez may be unique among modern directors, as he has done the only remake/reboot of a classic horror franchise that’s really good: Evil Dead. But he and his co-writer Rodo Sayagues show they don’t need a proven franchise to work their magic. The acting is good, boiling down primarily to The Blind Man (Lang) and the girl, Rocky (Jane Levy, also from The Evil Dead and “Suburgatory”), though the two guys Daniel Zovatto and Dylan Minnette do a fine job of being typical alpha and beta males, respectively.
If there’s a weak part, really, to this film it is the characters. Rocky isn’t really an admirable person—she’s definitely a means justifying ends type—and the actress’s likability can only go so far. She has many opportunities to do the right thing, and almost always demurs. Apart from her struggle for survival, which inherently endears her to us, she takes some pretty horrible things—that she caused, directly or indirectly—rather cavalierly.
But if, like a lot of movies, Don’t Breathe doesn’t encourage you to think, it also doesn’t give you a lot of opportunity to think, either. It envelops you in the struggle for survival pretty quickly, and very well. That’s pretty good for a horror flick. It’ll probably break $100M on its $10M budget which, I hope, doesn’t mean we’ll have to have a sequel.