Bad’uns, living in a run-down part of Michegan, dreaming of surfing in California – Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and loud-mouth Money (Daniel Zovatto) make a living from committing small time robberies. Smoking pot, using expletives and sex jokes in front of minors, including Rocky’s little sister Diddy, the three ruffians decide to improve their shambling lives by robbing a house owned by blind war veteran Norman Nordstrom (Steven Lang) with $300,000 and a big, slobbering dog.
The money is compensation he received following the death of his daughter, who was run down by wealthy Cindy Roberts (Franciska Törocsik). Nordstrom is devastated and bitter that she should be let off her crimes so lightly.
I love films that present a ‘world within a world’ - that is, an isolated utopia hidden in plain sight: Norman’s home, which he rarely leaves (as established early on), is a dark sprawling private hell personalised to his needs and advantage. Outside, the sun shines and life continues. Inside, anything can happen, and no-one may ever know. When the three would-be robbers enter this world, it isn’t long before one of them (Money, I’m glad to say) is despatched. For Rocky and Alex, trouble is only just beginning …
Scenes often begin with blurred shots or extreme close-ups that obfuscate the new perils the characters find themselves in, revealing every desperate detail with an agonising (and deliberate) slowness. Writer/Producer/Director Fede Alvarez is clearly a name to look out for. ‘Evil Dead (2013)’ composer Roque Baños’s wonderful music score is exceptional also, a collection of moody, occasionally screeching instrumentation that really sells the growing unease. The discovery of Cindy Roberts, bound, gagged and pregnant, is shocking. She took away Norman’s child, so he thinks it is only right she provides him with a new one. Except her death whilst trying to escape with Rocky, puts that idea to rest.
‘There is nothing man cannot do once he accepts the fact there is no God,’ says heavily armed Norman shortly before attempting to artificially inseminate Rocky using a turkey baster in a bid to replace once again, he hopes, his murdered child.
His plans foiled by Alex, and disorientated by the alarms, Norman fires randomly all around him, blowing a hole poignantly in a photograph of his daughter’s smiling face.
I generally prefer independent horror films, often preferring them to bigger budgeted, more diluted mainstream offerings. This is hugely enjoyable, and very tense. There are no heroes, no-one without flaws, just wronged people. Someone online described ‘Don’t Breathe’ as a heavily expanded variant of the Buffalo Bill segment of ‘Silence of the Lambs (1991)’, which is a pretty good synopsis. It is good to see this doing well in the commercial arena; I wish more managed to gain such attention.