People who go to see movies like “Don’t Breathe” — some of them, anyway — tend to laugh when people are killed onscreen. And when people believed to be dead open their eyes. Even I laughed when the watchdog, which the three attractive young thieves had drugged into slumber, appeared in the hallway, growling. Ha! Guess he woke up, dudes.
Such are the mood and mentality of this home-invasion story, directed by Fede Alvarez. And it will probably please fans of this simple genre with its solid suspense, murky lighting and “gotcha!” scares.
Set in Michigan, the film follows teenage criminals as they choose their next victim: a reclusive, white-haired blind man whose house is surrounded by empty homes with overgrown lawns. But the man (Stephen Lang, a stage actor also known for the film “Avatar”) isn’t as helpless as the invaders had hoped. A war veteran, he hasn’t forgotten any of his killing skills, so the break-in gets messy.
Characters are easily ranked by degrees of evil. Money (Daniel Zovatto) is bad to the core. Rocky (Jane Levy) is bad, but she has an excuse (a horrible mother and home life). Alex (Dylan Minnette) is almost a good guy but sees nothing wrong with stealing enough money to move to California. The nameless blind man seems noble at first, mourning his little daughter, but something in his basement suggests that his demise wouldn’t be a great loss to humanity. Which lets the audience relax and applaud all the slaughter.
“Don’t Breathe” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian) for torrents of four-letter words, gun violence, head-bashing and a scene involving a container of sperm.