Film Review: Don’t Breathe (2016)

Release Date: March 12th, 2016 (SXSW)
Directed by: Fede Alvarez
Written by: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues
Music by: Roque Banos
Cast: Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, Stephen Lang

Ghost House Pictures, Good Universe, Screen Gems, Stage 6 Films, 88 Minutes

Review:

“There is nothing a man cannot do once he accepts the fact that there is no god.” – The Blind Man

Stephen Lang is the only thing I loved about Avatar. In fact, I wanted him to scorch that stupid planet and that whole James Cameron CGI shitfest. I hated Avatar but Lang was damn good in it. So when a horror movie came along with him as the “monster”, I had to give it a shot.

Additionally, Fede Alvarez did a fine job with his Evil Dead remake, if you ask me. I know it is a film that divided the fans of the original Sam Raimi trilogy but I was more than satisfied with Alvarez’s serious take on the material. Evil Dead was actually terrifying in a time when horror movies are horrible and stupid.

Also, Don’t Breathe re-teams Alvarez with Jane Levy, who I also liked in Evil Dead. It was cool seeing her get down and dirty in a different way in Don’t Breathe.

The film sees three twenty-somethings break into a blind Gulf War veteran’s home in a mostly abandoned neighborhood in Detroit. The veteran apparently got a huge settlement after his young daughter was killed by a car driven by a rich teen girl. The home invaders want the money, mostly so they can leave the slums of Detroit and go to California for a better life. Regardless, they are still despicable characters even though the film tries to justify their behavior and also turn them into the protagonists when dark secrets about the blind veteran are revealed. Everyone in this movie is a seedy character.

Regardless of seeing bad people come together in a violent confrontation that takes up the bulk of the film, you still care enough about the characters for the suspense to work. While the evil of the veteran, the initial victim, ends up trumping the evil deeds of the intruders, you don’t see it coming and when the big reveal of his dark secret happens, the film completely switches gears.

However, the evil secrets of the veteran get darker and more screwed up and at a point, the film jumps the shark for me. What was a great suspenseful thriller about home invaders biting off more than they could chew and deservedly getting offed turns into a story that is more insane and disturbing than it needed to be and frankly, it loses its effectiveness.

Don’t Breathe is solidly acted, directed and the visual style works well, especially the scene in the basement where the characters battle it out in complete darkness.

While I wasn’t a fan of how disturbing the film got and felt it derailed things a bit, it was a really good horror picture in a terrible era for scary movies. It is certainly worth checking out but don’t expect anything game changing.

Rating: 6.75/10

Film Review: It Follows (2014)

Release Date: May 17th, 2014 (Cannes)
Directed by: David Robert Mitchell
Written by: David Robert Mitchell
Music by: Disasterpeace
Cast: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe

Northern Lights Films, Animal Kingdom, Two Films, RADiUS-TWC, Dimension Films, 100 Minutes

Review:

“It could look like someone you know or it could be a stranger in a crowd. Whatever helps it get close to you.” – Hugh

I kind of regret not seeing It Follows when it came out a few years ago. A part of me wanted to give it a chance but it came out in the middle of summer and I had a lot going on then, as well as having lost my faith in horror over the last decade or so.

Well, there have been a few horror films in recent years that have been pretty exceptional in a genre that is now predominantly PG-13 and full of cheap-o CGI ghost stories. It Follows is one of the few that stands out and proves that horror isn’t a dead genre and that there are still some new things to explore.

The film isn’t terrifying because what is anymore, really? But it is quite effective and a sort of dark and enchanting picture that is made even better by its great young cast, the direction and writing of David Robert Mitchell, the cinematography of Mike Gioulakis and the stupendous score by Disasterpeace.

The premise was interesting and while nothing really unpredictable happened and this film stays on the traditional rails, it did a good job of building suspense until the end. It didn’t focus on jump scares or any other cheap tricks, it just gave you characters you mostly like and it built a sense of dread around them. You want them to survive, which in a horror movie these days, is pretty exceptional, as I usually cheer the monster because everyone else is a moron or just horrible in some way.

Maika Monroe was better than fantastic. Her friends were also all believable characters but maybe needed a bit more story.

The music by Disasterpeace is great. He created one of the best scores I’ve heard in years and I hope this opens a lot of doors for other film projects.

Mike Gioulakis is becoming one of my favorite cinematographers between this film, as well as his work on Split and being involved in the visuals of John Dies at the End.

It Follows is a film that gives me hope. Hope that horror will not die a slow and painful death and that it will rise from the ashes like a phoenix to burn all the horrible shit the genre has been putting out for far too long now.

Rating: 8.75/10