Following up the success of his insane, grueling, and gory remake of Evil Dead in 2013, Fede Alvarez has returned with his second studio picture, Don’t Breathe. He once again teams with star Jane Levy (Evil Dead, Suburgatory) for this film, which is one of those amazing premises that makes me say “Damn, I wish I thought of that.”
Don’t Breathe tells the story Rocky (Levy), a down on her luck girl living in a doublewide trailer with her trashy mother and her mother’s even trashier (and possibly abusive) boyfriend. Rocky dreams of escaping with her little sister and finding a better life out west. To do this, she teams up with her friends, a Kevin Federline type called “Money” (Daniel Zovatto- It Follows), and Alex (Dylan Minnette- Prisoners), to burglarize homes and get some cash.
This film is set in the crumbling architecture of Detroit’s present day (a setting also explored in 2014’s It Follows). The overgrown weeds and empty dilapidated homes line the streets where Rocky and crew scope out their next mark, a blinded old veteran who is said to have plenty of cash. Later that evening, they go back in to make their score, but find they may have gotten into more than they bargained for…
There are many points where the location’s grimy, abandoned nature not only sets the tone, but reflects on the events and characters on many layers that are not immediately apparent. The vacant streets and homes adjacent to the Blind Man’s house not only give a feeling of isolation, but also help to drive home that no matter how loud anyone screams, or how many shots are fired, no one is around to hear or help.
One of the major highlights of the film is Stephen Lang as The Blind Man. For the duration of the entire picture, Lang delivers a performance that is menacing yet sympathetic at times. The depth and motivation he is able to get across with so little spoken (he has about a dozen lines in the whole film) is quite impressive. He is utterly terrifying throughout, yet you can see why he is how he is.
The atmosphere and tension built by Alvarez and Co. keeps you on edge from start to finish, creating an unending, intense but satisfying thrill ride. There were many times I was not sure what was coming next, and when those twists and turns arrived I enjoyed it even more.
Once again Alvarez hit it out of the park and continues to prove he is a very imaginative director, great behind the camera, and truly understands the horror genre. He is definitely one to follow throughout his career, and I can’t wait to see what he come up with next.
Verdict: Highly Recommended