Writer/director Fede Alvarez made his big screen debut just three years ago with his underwhelming and completely misguided remake/reimagining of “The Evil Dead” (retitled to just “Evil Dead”). In terms of horror, it was quite lacking and seemed like it had only been made as an exercise in gratuitous gore, while leaving out the fun spirit of the original film. However, if nothing else, it at least showed that he was a competent filmmaker, though his writing still needed some work. This brings us to his sophomore feature, “Don’t Breathe,” another attempt at bringing a few scares to horror fans. Will his second shot finally be the next great horror film that we’ve all been waiting for?
The story follows three friends, Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette), and Money (Daniel Zovatto), who rob houses together in the hopes of getting out of Detroit. Their latest tip tells them that an old veteran recently received a large settlement after his daughter was hit and killed by a car and that the money is in his house, which happens to be located in an abandoned neighborhood. The three stake out his house and discover that the old man (Stephen Lang) is blind, but they figure that this will just make the job even easier. However, once they get inside, things don’t go exactly according to plan, finding that the man is more to be reckoned with and that there’s more going on than originally thought.
“Don’t Breathe” starts off as a semi-intriguing idea for a horror film, putting these three young thieves into a situation that none of them expected to find themselves in, and while it once again does show that Alvarez is a decent filmmaker, it’s the writing that ends up being his downfall once more. It’s a common practice that horror filmmakers ask you to suspend your disbelief once or twice during their films, for usually there’s something highly improbable that occurs that you know would never happen, but when it comes to Alvarez’s latest project, he doesn’t just ask once or twice.
As the film proceeds for its brief 80-minute runtime, there are a number of plotholes that pile up, continually taking you out of the story and placing whatever suspense its built up on hold. The suspense is one thing that the film manages to do somewhat well, for there are times when you’re just not sure what’s going to happen next, but in this instance, it ends up being as much a negative as it is a positive. This has everything to do with the trio of thieves being your typical sub-intelligent characters that do a multitude of idiotic things or fail to do something obvious that would get them out of their predicament.
The most glaring example of this is the fact that all three of them have at least one opportunity to take out the villain throughout the film (some of them get more than one chance), but completely fail to take advantage of the circumstances. This is on top of opportunities for escape that they don’t take and other things they do that no one would be dumb enough to do in their shoes. Let’s not even get into the question of why this blind man is keeping $300,000 in a safe in his home instead of in a bank. With so many highly implausible events occurring during this brief horror outing, it’s almost impossible to get engaged in the story it’s trying to tell, leaving you with little to do but wait for the next absurd development.
After this and “Evil Dead,” it would appear that writing simply isn’t Alvarez’s (or co-writer Rodo Sayagues’) thing. In a way, he’s kind of like Rob Zombie (though not quite that awful), where he has a talent for direction, but not so much a talent for storytelling. As I suggested long ago for Zombie, perhaps Alvarez should try directing someone else’s script, for then the result might be something rather intriguing, instead of something where you’re merely shaking your head and rolling your eyes over and over again.
“Don’t Breathe” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.40:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of mostly excellent quality. There are times throughout the dimly-lit film that it is a little hard to see what’s on the screen, but for the most part, the picture is sharp and clear. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is fantastic, giving you all of the dialogue, score, and loud bangs on the soundtrack in outstanding quality. Overall, the film has received pretty good treatment, leaving you with a fine experience in both areas.
Audio Commentary with Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues, and Stephen Lang: A track in which the director/co-writer, co-writer, and star drop some interesting tidbits about the making of the film.
No Escape (3 Minutes): A very brief featurette that takes a look behind the scenes of the film.
Man in the Dark (3 Minutes): Another brief featurette that examines Stephen Lang’s “The Blind Man.”
Meet the Cast (4 Minutes): A featurette that focuses on the film’s characters.
Creating the Creepy House (4 Minutes): An interesting featurette that goes through the design of The Blind Man’s house.
The Sound of Horror (2 Minutes): A quick featurette that explores the film’s music.
Deleted Scenes (15 Minutes): A collection of eight deleted sequences that were easily lost from the film.
“Don’t Breathe” shows once again that Fede Alvarez is a competent filmmaker when it comes to directing, but thanks to a script riddled with plotholes and idiotic characters, it’s clear to see that he and Sayagues still have a lot of work to do when it comes to writing. It’s true that horror films often ask you to accept some things that stretch the limits of believability, but when it comes to “Don’t Breathe,” Alvarez simply asks too much.