Not a single soul knew one iota of information about the plot of the Untitled Fede Alvarez/Ghost House Thriller that was placed on the SXSW Film Festival lineup. But after it made its world premiere on March 11, snippets of details started to come out like its new title, DON’T BREATHE, and that it is a twisted home invasion story starring Jane Levy. That’s about it. So after the shroud of mystery was finally lifted, Alvarez’s latest has proven to be a brutal thrill ride that could very well be the best thing to come out of SXSW this year.
After an opening shot of a guy dragging an unconscious girl down the street (which is essentially a preview of what’s to come), we are introduced to a trio of young thieves robbing an affluent house. There’s the ringleader Rocky (Levy), the brains and heart of the group, Alex (Dylan Minnette) and the greedy jerk of the group, Money (Daniel Zovatto). They seem smart, savvy, and are calculated with everything they do. So much that you wouldn’t think they would do anything stupid… until they decide to rob an old man who is the lone inhabitant of a run-down neighborhood.
The old man (Stephen Lang) apparently is hoarding large amounts of money, and even though they make it a rule to never steal money, they make an exception for this old man for some reason. The money will solve many problems for the trio, mainly Rocky who is determined to escape from her monster of a mother to California with her little sister.
They come to a crossroads when they realize the man is blind. Do they spare him or do they go with the plan because his disability makes it easier for them to pull of the job? Of course, they go with the latter. And of course, they plan to rob him while he is in the house. They start their little heist and when they are confronted by the totally ripped and unhinged blind man and his Cujo-esque Rottweiler, things don’t go exactly as planned. People get shot, maimed, stabbed, punched, choked, and don’t even get me started on what they end up finding in the basement.
Alvarez and Levy first worked together on the Evil Dead reboot which premiered at SXSW in 2013, which proved to be a great partnership. Now with Don’t Breathe as their second collaboration, we are seeing a kind of Joss Whedon-Sarah Michelle Gellar working chemistry that delivers the goods. If they keep on this track, they will definitely reach Buffy-grade excellence.
Alvarez wrote the script with Rodo Sayagues, who also co-wrote the Evil Dead reboot. As a director, Alvarez makes some distinct filmmaking decisions to heighten the tension and brutality without shoving the blood spatter and uber violence in your face — and it works just as effectively. But that’s not to say there is a fair share of cringe worthy moments of beat downs and shock. When it comes down to it, it’s just good ol’ fashioned R-rated fun.
Don’t Breathe is a genre-bending piece of WTF-ery that gives audiences an incredible moviegoing experience. It turns the typical home invasion storyline on its head, slaps it around and adds nuances that take the terror to a whole different level. It’s the kind of movie that will remind people why they love SXSW.
Score: 4 out of 5
Dino-Ray Ramos watches too much TV and laughs inappropriately during dramatic films. He’s a fan of comedy, podcasts, and comedy podcasts. He’s a reformed comic book geek and thinks “The Goonies” is the best movie of all time. When he isn’t stuffing his face with a burrito, he’s thinking about his next trip to Disneyland.
Dino-Ray Ramos | Staff Writer