Don't Breathe: when prey turns predator

This take on the home invasion genre leaves you rooting for the bad guys. —PHOTO: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT  

Usually, home-invasion films focus on the protagonist. Through great struggle — often involving gore, blood and hacking — the victims emerge triumphant, overcoming the odds conveniently stacked against them. And in the end, when those credits roll, we’re heaving sighs of relief: our heroes are safe. Down with the bad guys! Rarely does a film manage to evoke empathy for the perpetrator. But Don’t Breathe does just that. You’re rooting for the criminals. And with every altercation, the edge you’re perched on gets smaller and smaller.

Three delinquent teenagers Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette), and Money (Daniel Zovatto) have made a career out of breaking and entering. Their preferred choice of victims? Clients who patronise the security firm run by Alex’s father. But one particular opportunity seems like a no-brainer. An old blind war veteran, Norman Nordstrom (Stephen Lang), who is also the recipient of an out-of-court hefty settlement from the family of the driver who ran over his daughter. Rocky needs this job to be successful so she can escape to LA with her little sister. Her boyfriend Money is only all too eager to help and Alex, who’s obviously in love with her, reluctantly comes on board.

While attempts to get into the house are under way, we’re let in on a secret. These kids have made a huge mistake in underestimating Nordstrom. There’s a ferocious Rottweiler who’s been sedated by the trio, but who knows what will happen next? And then the camera slowly pans through the house, showing us a taped gun under a bed and revealing a crucial fact: the blind dude is a smart man. When we get a full look at him, another truth comes to light: he’s ripped with bulging muscles and abs of steel. The puny kids stand no chance.

Director Fede Alvarez, who successfully rebooted Evil Dead, manages to inject plenty of thrills into the film. But there are several points when the film loses its hold on viewers. Nordstrom is an unbelievable Daredevil, using his heightened sense of smell and other out-of-this world skills to track his kill. One particular scene where he’s boarding up the broken window sees him perfectly hammer nails in despite his lack of vision. Also, the board was already just the right size. Go figure. At another confusing point, a turkey baster filled with semen is intended to be a menacing object (saying more would be a spoiler). Should we laugh or be afraid?

When Nordstrom’s dirty dark secret is revealed, the film seems a little anti-climactic. There should have been something far scarier than what he’s been hiding despite how horrific it already is. I’d liked to have been more worried about Rocky, Money and Alex, but the tension never quite managed to grip me entirely.

Even though Don’t Breathe does fall short sometimes, it is still a great watch to see how the prey turns into the predator.

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Printable version | Nov 30, 2021 3:58:31 PM |

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