The summer season of 2016 has been a fairly disappointing experience for film enthusiasts like myself. It arguably reached its peak in May with ‘Captain America: Civil War’, and ended with the disappointing experience that was ‘Suicide Squad’. Along the way, we’ve seen many mediocre or terrible movies. Some of the best movies have been independent or low-budget productions, which is great, but it’s a bittersweet triumph for the smaller films, as not everyone will have managed to enjoy what the summer season had to offer. Enter ‘Don’t Breathe’, a fairly low-budget horror-thriller with an exciting premise and a really well presented trailer; a film which has exploded at the box office and also has critics’ approval. The summer ends on a good note then. But is ‘Don’t Breathe’ really the great movie of the summer, or is it just a breath of fresh air in a stagnant movie industry?
‘Don’t Breathe’ stars Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette and Stephen Lang, and revolves around a group of robbers who target a blind veteran with a large cash settlement. Problem is, once they get in the house, they realise this blind guy is much more dangerous than they anticipated. He can, of course, hear their movements, and he also has some hardcore army skills that he puts to use. So it is now a game of cat-and-mouse between some young people looking to get rich quick versus this blind man with nothing really left to lose…or so we think.
The movie works best when it utilises its horror elements. The writer and director, Fede Alvarez (2013’s Evil Dead), makes the jump scare technique as effective as possible. It had me on the edge of my seat for a good portion of the film. The performances are all good too, especially Stephen Lang as the blind man. His presence on screen – along with those biceps – really adds some depth and energy to the movie.
I mentioned earlier that the film’s premise and trailer were really good. I wasn’t lying. The concept alone had me interested to see it, and the trailer got me into the theatre. I don’t really enjoy horror movies that much, because I find that a lot of them are really insipid and dull. But when the rave reviews started rolling in, I couldn’t avoid it any longer. I am pleased to say that the whole movie is not in the trailer, but I am also unhappy to say that I kinda wish that it was.
‘Don’t Breathe’ has two egregious flaws. The first, is its beginning and ending. The first 15 second shot of the film basically spoils the rest of the film. And then, in the next three minutes of exposition, which was pretty well done, it dropped a little hint which would later lead to the big “twist” of the movie. And I guessed that twist almost immediately after that notion was brought up. As for the ending, it doesn’t have any real meaning. It’s supposed to act as a cliffhanger type of ending, but it had such little significance at that point, it truly felt unnecessary.
The second flaw is the “twist”. It’s really stupid. The ingenious concept of this overall film and how it plays out would’ve been enough to make the film a success. However, about halfway through, an extra story arc gets thrown in that takes the movie to a new level of ridiculousness. To put it another way, the story goes from realistic to absurd faster than you can say “M. Night Shymalan’s The Village had a clever ending”. To put it ANOTHER way, I will let my theatre experience speak for itself. There’s a scene that has really got everyone talking, and while this scene was playing out, the audience around me burst out laughing. Not in an immature way though, more in sheer disbelief and bewilderment at the course the film had taken. It was awkward and ridiculous, and for the rest of the movie, I was no longer scared because of how utterly insane it had gotten. When (slash if) you watch the film, you’ll know exactly which scene I’m talking about. It’s a shame really that what could have been a decent horror flick will now be forever remembered for this one bizarre moment.
The cinematography was also a subject of inner debate for myself, because I couldn’t decide whether or not it was any good. A lot of it was out of focus and blurry, but it made sense with the character’s being in an environment that wasn’t always visible. A lot of scenes featured long takes, and in those long takes there’s sometimes a jump scare to keep you alert. All of the additional technical parts to the movie were well done, especially the score and most notably the sound production; much of the effects for the guns and other loud noises had my nerves constantly on edge. A lot of the directorial and audio-based parts of the movie were really well done. However, I cannot forgive the story for what it tried to do.
Overall, I would recommend seeing ‘Don’t Breathe’. It’s got a good thriller narrative, and the first half is actually pretty good. If you are a fan of horror and being scared, this is a great movie. If you found the summer disappointing and hope that this is the remedy, look elsewhere. It is by no means bad, but it seems to me that this will be one of the more overrated movies of 2016 when all is said and done.