By Bradley Griffith
While December isn’t exactly the perfect time of year to watch a horror movie, at least it provides a change from the almost overwhelming Christmas programs on TV. “Don’t Breathe” is about as far as you can get from a Christmas movie, and it’s now available for rental at home.
Alex (Dylan Minnette), Rocky (Jane Levy), and Money (Daniel Zovatto) are three teenagers living in dilapidated and downtrodden Detroit. Alex lives with his dad who runs a home security business. Rocky has a terrible home life with her mom, her mom’s boyfriend, and her sister. We aren’t shown much about Money’s backstory, just that he is a true dirt bag.
The three use their unfortunate lives in a dying city as justification for being thieves. The opening scene of the movie shows them entering a home and stealing anything of value they can get their hands on. It’s clearly not their first burglary. Alex takes keys from his dad’s office to homes that are protected by his dad’s security service to gain entry to the homes.
Even though Alex is clearly in love with Rocky, she and Money are dating and are planning to move to California as soon as they can burglarize enough homes to make it out of town and to the west coast. They see their big opportunity when Money learns about a blind man sitting on a pile of cash. The mark, simply known as The Blind Man (Stephen Lang), received a cash settlement when his daughter was killed in an auto accident by a drunk driver. A source tells Money he received $300,000 to settle the lawsuit. His home is protected by the security company run by Alex’s dad.
Against Alex’s better judgment, he succumbs to peer pressure and agrees to break in to the Blind Man’s house at night and take his money while he sleeps. What they didn’t count on was an old, blind man fighting back, and fighting back with a vengeance.
The best aspect of “Don’t Breathe” is the novel idea of trying to evade a blind man in the dark in a home that he knows well while the intruders know nothing about the home. There’s one particularly memorable scene where everyone still alive is in the basement and the Blind Man shuts off all the lights. The Blind Man knows his way around while the others are flailing blindly in complete darkness. Attempting to avoid a formidable blind man who knows the terrain makes for some interesting silent standoffs.
Unfortunately, the part of the movie that makes it interesting is the same part that in the end causes its downfall. While plot holes are common in just about every movie in the horror genre, there are too many in “Don’t Breathe.” Why wouldn’t they take flashlights into a home of a blind man at night? He couldn’t see the flashlights. What makes them think that a blind man in a derelict part of town would keep $300,000 in cash in his home rather than a bank? Most importantly, how can the viewer connect or empathize with three kids robbing an old blind man?
The “heroes” are thieves who can’t believe their bad luck when they try to rob a blind man and he actually fights back. Not that the old blind man is a saint himself, but I had difficulty in thinking of Alex or Rocky as the good guys and, at least at the beginning of the film, I found myself rooting for the Blind Man. The protagonists of a story don’t have to be pearly white, in fact, it’s better if they aren’t. But criminals as the main characters who are robbing an old blind man who lives alone prevents you from having any type of emotional connection about whether they survive.
On the positive side the movie is well made and acted, particularly by Stephen Lang who makes an old blind man in a white tank top menacing. The problem is that three of the dumbest thieves ever captured on-screen don’t exactly make you want to root for them. In “Don’t Breathe,” there are no good guys.
Rated R for terror, violence, disturbing content, and language including sexual references.