Big Tim’s review published on Letterboxd:
"Just because he's blind doesn't mean he's a saint, bro."
I'm reminded of that line when Fargo's sterling heroine Marge Gunderson is talking to a murderer she has finally apprehended, someone who resorted to the ultimate crime in order to become a little richer.
"There's more to life than a little money, ya know. Dont'cha know that?"
And here we have a movie in Don't Breathe, which is a simple film with a miniscule cast about a burglary gone wrong. No one in this movie is redeemable, yet we are stuck with this crew for the duration. The movie doesn't attempt to endear its characters to us, it just sets out to thrill us with a cat-and-mouse game between three teen burglars and the blind war veteran they are victimizing.
The premise and execution borrows from many places, namely home invasion thrillers such as Panic Room and Wait Until Dark, which are obvious comparisons, with a little bit of last year's Room mixed in. For the most part, Don't Breathe is a straightforward horror film that utilizes silence extremely well, employs a slithering camera to make great use of a very limited setting and contains some genuinely anxious moments.
So why didn't this film quite hit the mark for me? It has to do with its story and its repetitive jump scares and predictability that caused me to laugh when I should've been gasping for air. What starts out as a simple film gets a little more complicated as the story unravels until the last half hour or so sits as a head-scratching mess, full of unnecessary character developments and a dud of an ending that left a bad taste in my mouth as the end credits rolled.
For their parts, director Fede Alvarez and co-producer Sam Raimi (who knows his way around the horror genre), weave a second act that is lacking in dialogue and heavy on the anxiety. With a crew of burglars bent on keeping silent to avoid the suspicions of their blind victim, quiet moments in the film become all the more terrifying with a sense of unpredictability that the filmmakers really have fun playing with. Not that we care, really, about the fates of the central characters but that anxious feeling we get as they try to avoid capture and navigate the dark, dank maze that is the film's house, set against the urban decay of Detroit which, in many ways, is chique nowadays in the horror genre with such films as Only Lovers Left Alive (more of a horror/romance but you get the point) and It Follows, makes for some, for lack of a better word, breathless moments.
But once the film starts to deviate away from the core plot elements and reveal more things about the characters, the less I cared to see what would happen next. When the last act finally rolls around, the audience is thrown into a bizarre turn of events, story-wise, and then it's a parade of horror tropes until the meek ending that leaves no real resolution. It doesn't help that the film isn't really strong on acting performances, either, although Stephen Lang can be very creepy and menacing at times. Don't Breathe just wore out its welcome, for me, and left me wishing the filmmakers opted to stick to their guns a little bit more and finish strong based on what the first two acts showed.