Movie Review: Don't Breathe

One of my most memorable horror outing was before the turn of the decade, back in 2009, when I watched Drag Me to Hell, directed by the legendary Sam Raimi (he also directed The Posession and Poltergeist, to name but two of his horror ventures) as a wide-eyed, stouthearted JC student with my classmates. I left the cinema that night with enough fear to last me a good two weeks.
As an unabashed horror movie buff though, I revel in a healthy dose of good old scares every once in a while, so imagine my excitement when I received an invite to watch Don’t Breathe, a horror thriller produced by none other than Raimi himself.
The premise’s simple: three youngsters from Detroit seek to leave their neighbourhood for greener pastures, need money, and turn to breaking into wealthy houses for a quick buck to fund their escape. The targets of their heists are customers of Alex (Dylan Minnette)’s father security company, from which Alex manipulates to access information to bypass their security systems. Alex is driven by his romantic (albeit unrequited) feelings towards Rocky (Jane Levy), who in turn is trying to raise enough funds to walk away from a miserable domestic situation with her preschool daughter. Then there’s Rocky’s boorish boyfriend Money (Daniel Zovatto), whose motive was never truly examined.
Money gets wind of a blinded military veteran who lives all by himself in an otherwise abandoned part of town, and proposes the idea to the trio. Apparently, the blind dude has a pile of cash which he won from a major settlement following an accident that killed his daughter. Rocky, eager to accrue getaway funds pronto, is in. Alex, the moral compass of the three (and apparently well-versed in the judicial and legal system as well), reminds them that “above $10,000 it’s major larceny,” which can result in substantial jail time. Nonetheless, our Romeo decides to go along with it for Rocky’s sake.
It’s 2am. The neighbourhood is dead silent, with lights only from one house. Getting in was harder than their previous hauls, with many extra locks and bolts and bars on windows. They had no idea that getting out would be f***ing worse. I mean, we know the man inside is blind, and how much harm could a solitary blind man cause right?

The movie picks up momentum once in the house, when the blind owner (Stephen Lang) realises he’s not alone. Sightless but far from helpless, he sets out to protect his money, and a big secret that would leave every discerning audience disturbed.
Consistent tension is maintained throughout without being overbearingly heavy, with the intruders constantly finding themselves faced with one challenge after another (it’s as if the blind man knows every corner of his house like the back of his hand). One of the best sequence would have to be when they retreat to the basement in a bid to escape, only to have the lights go off completely, giving full advantage to the blind man with his sharpened sense of hearing and his knowledge of the terrain, while his targets are left to their own devices feeling their way around with nothing more than their bare hands and an already paranoia sense of fear.
Don’t Breathe delivers exactly what it promises, a fast-paced thriller with a simple cat-and-mice premise, and then ups the ante with a completely unpredictable (yet believable) rationale behind the blind man’s determination to safeguard his house at all costs. I think this should settle my cheap thrill horror fix for a while now.

This article was written by Ivan Lim



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