Don’t Breathe (2016)

2017 #21
Fede Alvarez | 88 mins | streaming (HD) | 2.35:1 | USA / English | 15 / R

Don't Breathe

One of the most talked-about thriller-cum-horror movies of last year, Don’t Breathe (which is available on Sky Cinema as of last Friday) concerns a gang of young house burglars — Rocky (Jane Levy), who’s doing it to help get her little sister away from their good-for-nothing parents; her boyfriend Money (Daniel Zovatto), who’s a bit of a dick; and Alex (Dylan Minnette), who’s secretly in love with Rocky, and whose dad runs a security company from which they ‘borrow’ the necessary information to access homes without setting off the alarms. After a big final score, they set their sights on the remote home of a chap (Stephen Lang) whose daughter was killed in a car accident, from which he netted a hefty settlement. Plus he’s blind, so it’ll be easy money. Right? As is no doubt obvious, the blind bloke turns out to have a few secrets up his sleeve… and down his basement…

Despite how it was advertised (doesn’t that poster scream “horror movie”?), really speaking Don’t Breathe is a thriller — it’s about a trio of crooks trying to rob a home and its owner fighting back. Though I suppose it depends what you use to define “a horror movie”, really. I tend to think of them as featuring an enemy who is either supernatural or possibly supernatural, but I suppose the only real prerequisite is that they be scary. Don’t Breathe doesn’t have a supernatural villain (though the blind man’s abilities do stretch credibility), but it’s so gosh-darn suspenseful that the viewing experience is similarly tense to a horror movie, even if outright scares are few. And one memorable scene in particular is certainly classifiable as horrific, most especially for female viewers. So, as a sub-90-minute exercise in mood and thrills it’s a very effective viewing experience; but it’s best not to stop to think about the practicalities if it were real because a lot of the film doesn’t withstand scrutiny. I won’t rehash all of the plot’s logic gaps (there are plenty of articles online that already do that, if you’re interested), but I think it’s best enjoyed as a go-along-with-it experience.

Bad guys gone good?

One point of contention for many seems to be the likeability or otherwise of the characters. The ostensible heroes are a gang of crooks who we first meet robbing the home of an undeserving victim, and being needlessly destructive about it too. You might think this sets the blind man up as some kind of avenging hero, but it becomes clear pretty quickly that he’s an even bigger bad guy… so are we meant to side with the crooks after all? For me, this raises a question I’ve come up against before: does a movie actually need to have any likeable characters? Some people need that, for sure, but I don’t think a film does per se. I’m not sure Don’t Breathe has really thought through its position on this issue, which makes reading online commentary about this point a funny thing. For instance, I saw someone argue that the writers make no effort to make us like the burglars — so, what’s the whole thing with Rocky trying to get her sister out of their shitty life for, then? And then another person stated that they actually found themselves liking two of the “bad guys” — so, if the burglars are the bad guys that makes the blind guy the hero? I don’t want to spoil anything, but if you’ve seen the movie you’ll know why holding that opinion is either, a) ridiculous, or b) deeply troubling…

As I said, it’s best not to think about it too much. I think Don’t Breathe is perhaps the movie equivalent of a theme park attraction: designed to thrill you and scare you during its brief duration, not withstand plot and character scrutiny when dissected afterwards. That’s why my rating errs on the lower side, though if you want nothing more than a gripping hour-and-a-half it maybe merits another star.

3 out of 5

The Interruptive Monthly Update for February 2017

And the award for Most Recent Month goes to… January!

I’m sorry, no, there’s a mistake. February, you guys won Most Recent Month. This is not a joke. This is not a joke, I’m afraid they read the wrong thing. This is not a joke. February has won Most Recent Month. February, Most Recent Month.


#16 Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)
#17 It Follows (2014)
#18 Elstree 1976 (2015)
#19 Hell or High Water (2016)
#19a Mad Max: Fury Road – Black & Chrome Edition (2015/2016)
#20 In a Valley of Violence (2016)
#21 Don’t Breathe (2016)
#22 Fandango (1985)
#23 Hail, Caesar! (2016)
#24 San Andreas (2015)
#25 Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie (2015)
#26 Dances with Wolves: Special Edition (1990/1991)
#27 Police Academy (1984)
#28 The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)
#29 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016)
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Fandango

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  • I watched 14 new films in February, plus one alternate version.
  • That’s now my 33rd consecutive month with ten or more films.
  • It easily passes the February average (11.22; now 11.5), but isn’t even close to the highest February (last year’s 24).
  • It also falls just short of the last 12 months’ average (15.83; now 15 exactly).
  • It’s also behind where I was this time last year (#44!), but it’s equal to this time in 2015 and ahead of every other year.
  • This month’s WDYMYHS viewing: the Coen brothers’ frothy ode to Hollywood (which may have deeper stuff going on that, frankly, I wish it didn’t try to bother with), Hail, Caesar!
  • I know some people like to schedule exactly which month they’ll watch each of their Blindspot films. Never quite understood why personally, and here’s a good argument for why not: suddenly finding myself with a weekend all to, er, myself, I was able to comfortably watch all four hours of Dances with Wolves.



The 21st Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
One of this year’s Best Picture nominees and a winner from the past may be among my viewing this month, but, while I liked them both very much, there were other films I enjoyed even more. Of those, I think I’m going to pick a coming-of-age comedy-drama I’d never even heard of ’til the ghost of 82 recommended it to me last year, Fandango. It’s definitely worth seeking out.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
There were no outright stinkers this month — and considering I watched things like San Andreas, Police Academy, and Teenage Mutant Michael Bay Turtles 2, I’m surprised. I nearly gave this award to Don’t Breathe, because the hyper-praised horror-thriller isn’t quite deserving of the extreme love it attracted, but I’ll probably give it a higher star rating than those three I already mentioned. Instead I’ll plump for Police Academy, which isn’t bad but isn’t all that great either.

Best Cover Version of a Classic Song of the Month
After getting an oriental-tinged version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps in Kubo last month, this month it’s California Dreamin’ given a hyper-dramatic do-over by Sia for San Andreas.

Best Dog of the Month
Could it be the talented Abby from In a Valley of Violence? (Very much so.) Could it be the vicious guard dog from Don’t Breathe? (Not really.) Could it be Snoopy? (Eh…) No, the actual winner is the cute little scruffy dog that gets chased by zombies but runs away and totally survives (yes he does) from The Girl with All the Gifts.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
My stats went through the roof this month thanks to being linked to in an article on Cracked.com — just those hits alone would make February 2017 my fourth highest month ever. But it was an old review (Wizardhood) so has nothing to do with this award. Two posts vied neck and neck all month, but in the end It Follows was bested by my review of “Tim Burton’s X-Men”, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

Special Award for Best Pun of the Month
This is a bit “patting myself on the back” (possibly undeservedly) but, honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of referring to In a Valley of Violence as “John Wick-y wicky wild wild West”.



You may have noticed there were fewer reviews this month than normal. That’s because (in case you missed it) I marked the blog’s 10th anniversary by posting ten top tens about the last ten years. Plus the customary statistics post, of course.


Despite its aim, my rewatchathon has thus far done very little to halt my focus on watching stuff I’ve never seen before — instead of one a week, I’m averaging one a month. Oops.

#2 21 Jump Street (2012)

I suppose you could also count Fury Road: Black & Chrome down here, but the decolourisation has such a profound effect on the feel of the film that I think it belongs in my main list, albeit as an unnumbered aside, like most alternate versions. And it can’t really be in both lists, can it?

It’s OK though, there are still ten months to go…


So, I said I was going to post 100 Favourites II on consecutive days for the rest of this week. I’ve decided that’s not going to work out, so instead I’ll post the four parts weekly, starting this Sunday.

Other than that, after spending ages celebrating the blog’s anniversary, regular service will be resumed.