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Don't Breathe (2016)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 11/29/2016

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/23/2016

When the Evil Dead remake was released in 2013, I made no bones about my disapproval of this idea and my dislike for the film. I respect the notion that Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Robert Tappert wanted an opportunity to make the money which they didn't get from the 1981 original, but I would have preferred to have seen an Evil Dead 4 (Army of Darkness 2?). The question here is was my strong opinion of the movie an unfair assessment of Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues, the young filmmakers who were tasked with bringing this remake to the screen? That is certainly possible, which is why I was willing to give them another chance with their sophomore effort, Don't Breathe.

Rocky (Jane Levy) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) are a low-life couple in Detroit who have teamed up with Alex (Dylan Minnette) for a crime-spree. Alex's father works for a home security company, so he has access to alarm system codes and house keys. Money's fence gives him a hot new lead -- a man who lives on an otherwise deserted street and who was the recipient of a large settlement following the death of his daughter. The group check out the house and find that the man (Steven Lang) is blind. Therefore, they assume that the robbery will be easy and Rocky can fulfill her dream of moving to California. But, once they enter the house, they learn that the man, who is ex-military, does not back down from a fight. They also learn that his house is full of secrets.

The problem with most modern-day horror films is that, simply put, the people behind the camera have no idea what they are doing. They fill their movies with unlikable characters, needless subplots, and no attempts to actually be scary. Following Evil Dead, I would have lumped Alvarez and Sayagues into this category, as that just made one mistake after another. I have to admit that they have redeemed themselves with Don't Breathe, which is a lean and mean shocker which doesn't mess around.

And this is the primary reason why Don't Breathe works. The movie wastes no time in introducing the three main characters and the basic premise. Then, it is off to the races as the trio enters the house and realizes that they have bitten off more than they can chew. The title refers to the fact that the burglars must hold their breath, lest they be heard by the blind man, but it can also relate to the fact that the viewer rarely gets a chance to catch their breath as the story progresses. While it would probably be unfair to call the film simplistic, it eschews any unnecessary details as we watch the plan falls to pieces. (In the deleted scenes included here, we see that several scenes were cut and it's easy to assume that this was done to keep the pacing tight.) It's not until the third act that the story takes any major turns, and at least one is quite shocking -- not so much in how it comes out of nowhere, but in its twisted nature. The movie races towards the conclusion and we wait to see who will survive.

Along with the breakneck pace, the movie adds the extra wrinkle of introducing some moral issues. In reality, we should be rooting for the blind man. A group of thugs have broken into his house to steal money which he received as a settlement following the tragic death of his only child. He is clearly the victim here. And yet, Alvarez and Sayagues turn things on their heads and we find ourselves wanting Rocky and Alex to escape. Ironically, the character who goes by Money is the least likable person here, and his well-being is never really a concern. So, we watch the movie desperately hoping that the burglars don't get caught and then asking ourselves why we feel this way.

While Don't Breathe succeeds as a fast-paced thriller, it must be pointed out that it owes a lot to other movies. The idea of thieves robbing a blind person is hopefully an homage to 1967's Wait Until Dark. However, the movie owes the biggest debt to Wes Craven's 1991 oddity The People Under the Stairs, which also deals with crooks hitting an inner-city domicile, only to find a house of horrors. (Speaking of Craven, the stripped-down approach of Don't Breathe also reminded me of Red Eye.) (The movie also sounds similar to the French film Livide, which I have not seen.) Those issues aside, Don't Breathe is a must-see for those who don't like their horror movies complicated. It's fast-paced and it has a take no prisoners attitude which helps to distract from the plot holes.

Don't Breathe made me wonder if my security company has a key to my house on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The movie gets very dark at times, but the action is always visible. The color palette skews towards muted, but the hues look fine. The image is never soft and the depth looks good. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.2 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The sound-mix here is very impressive, as we are treated to sounds coming from all over the house. These emanate from the front and rear channels, and many of them are highly detailed. The subwoofer effects are excellent and often provide power to the jump scares.

The Don't Breathe Blu-ray Disc contains a number of special features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Co-Writer/Director Fede Alvarez, Co-Writer Rodo Sayagues and actor Stephen Lang. "No Escape" (3 minutes) explores the look of the film with comments from Alvarez and Cinematographer Pedro Luque, where they talk about the visuals being influenced by the blind character. "Man in the Dark" (3 minutes) offers an interview with Lang, who describes his character. "Meet the Cast" (4 minutes) allows the actors to give us an overview of their characters. We get a tour of the set and see how the house was built in "Creating the Creepy House" (4 minutes). "The Sounds of Horror" (2 minutes) allows Composer Roque Banos to describe his approach to scoring the film. The Disc contains eight DELETED SCENES which run about 15 minutes and can be viewed with commentary from Alvarez. These scenes offer some new moments which add depth to the characters, but it's clear that some of them would have slowed the film's pace.

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long