The other day I saw this summer’s breakout horror / slasher film: Don’t Breathe. It’s about three kids in Detroit who break into an old blind veteran’s house to steal $300,000 that he supposedly has lying around.
But obviously because he used to be in the army he’s a killing machine, despite being blind, and using various ruses he traps them in the house and starts attempting to kill them.
The movie was quite good. It’s a tight premise, and it has fun with its own conceit. The blind guy isn’t Daredevil. He has ears, and he can hear, but the movie establishes pretty clearly, early on, that he does not have a sixth sense. People can be fairly close to him, even just a fingers breadth apart, and he won’t know they’re there. And when he hears a noise, it’s clear he’s hearing a noise. He doesn’t immediately put things together in a chain of deduction that allows him to figure out exactly who’s making the noise and where they are.
There’s a hint of a character story here. The movie does its best to make its homebreakers into sympathetic characters, and it does a more than adequate job of making the blind man seem like a monster. It tries to become a morality play at some point. But the core of the film is carefully-photographed violence that takes place in a small and visually interesting space.
There’s a scene, early in the film, where the camera pans through the entire house, showing you a rack of tools in the laundry room, and a crawl space between the ground and first floor, and a gun taped under the guy’s bed, and you know: all of these things are going to come back eventually.
The only false note, to me, was that the movie opens with a shot of the blind man dragging the main character, Rocky, down the street by her hair. Which to me seemed to give away a bit too much. You know, throughout the movie (which takes place at night) that eventually day will come, and Rocky will manage to escape the house (probably because the others are dead), and that she will get dragged back inside. This foreknowledge felt like it was breaking some sort of contract with the viewer, but I’m not sure I can say why. I guess just because the suspense felt artificial and a bit unearned. I wondered if they put in that shot because they wondered, at times, if the “monster” might not seem a bit toothless. For all that he is a veteran and a killer, the man is also blind, and there are numerous points in the film in which he seems a bit outgunned. But we know, because of the first shot, that he will come back in the end and that he will have a moment of (seeming, or perhaps not) triumph.
Anyway, see it. The movie is the best suspense film I’ve seen since last year’s 8 Cloverfield Lane (although it is in many ways better than that film, because it’s not weighed down by all the science fictional elements).