Written by: Daniel McDonald
Don’t Breathe From Fede Alvarez, the protégé of creator of the beloved original franchise, Sam Raimi, tackles a new kind of terror.
The fan base was waiting with claws sharpened and fangs bared. Let’s face it, the Horror/Sci-fi/Thriller fan base is a fiercely loyal, sometimes fanatically trivia specific gang who have (especially in the past several years) been subjected to silly/stupid concepts/unnecessary existence, artistically bankrupt, so inept they actually insult the creators of the source material, sequels, updates, remakes, reimaginings and reboots.
Thus, one can understand (weeeelll at least somewhat), the trepidations that a remake of a beloved, honored, considered classic, stylistically influencing little movie…. although this project had not only the blessing of original creators it also had their assistance. Then the film was released… to mostly positive, some effusive critical praise. Raimi then quickly let press and public know that, for the most part the end product was all Alvarez. Several reviews pointed out the extreme violence, alleged misogynistic treatment of the female (especially leading lady/final girl sitcom celebrity, Jane Levy who despite gossip reports, enjoyed collaboration with Alvarez so much she signed on to star in Man in the Dark, Don’t Breathe‘s working title (so much for the misogynistic outrage).
I couldn’t help but notice (notice? Hell it smacked me in the face!) how incredibly successful both films are at telling their stories in such radically different ways.
Granted both films are Monster movies, one Monster created by horrible tragedy. who’s existing and hiding in our world, the other ,”evil made flesh” by guilt, seriously damaging uncontrolled jealousy and an unwillingness to accept help, support and a reality that has been birthed and is viciously out for revenge.
Whereas David F. Sandburg’s effusive joy in reimagining a project that has already been praised, but this time given the elements needed to completely tell the story in no way compromised by budgetary limitations, lack of solid talent on both sides of the camera and I feel that he let the parameters of what could be accomplished telling the story with Pg-13 eyes, assist him, inspire him. He pushed to squeeze every amount of the juice in the tropes that were available. His unbelievably creative ways of using the lack of, or suddenly gaining the power of light (the scene in the driveway with one of the only boyfriends in horror history that has the audience on his side, he’s good-looking, not ridiculously stupid or macho, he’s actually funny, charming and NOT having sex with our heroine when he grabs his keys the entire audience went crazy yelling and clapping)…both actor and director NAILED IT!!!!
Alvarez established his creative stamp in the first moments, that Don’t Breathe is a Fede Alavarez film. The opening slow aeriel panning into an activity that is happening in the street in view of anyone is nerve frying, but the fact that this act was literally dividing the town into half light, half darkness..I won’t reveal here…but folks we ain’t talking Yellow Brick Road time…..I was totally on board. That reptilian pan into and throughout a house that breathtakingly shows us what will become a battlefield, using smooth lyrical camera movements that brought a reminiscent feeling of my favorite visual storyteller Brian DePalma (and believe me, coming from this DePalma-head, that’s a HUGE compliment!).
Alvarez and his brilliant team, cinematographer Roque Bonos, crackerjack editors, Earl Herein, Louise Ford, Gariner Gould…shared and enabled Alvarez to gain the freedom of vision and style….and make, I think, exactly the film he wanted to make. His wonderful cast, a career redefining Dylan Minnette, the “well you’re a star now” turn from Jane Levy but Stephen Lang’s blind, visceral, multilayered creation of a horrifyingly damaged man/monster is quite possibly the best genre film performance I’ve seen this year.
This brings me to my two caveats regarding this post. Why is it a brilliantly constructed piece that uses sounds or the lack of it so magnificently doesn’t credit anyone as a sound designer? Lights Out is a sound (and also the lack of it) masterpiece.
In closing I’d like to simply state that Lights Out is a boundaries busting fresh, energetic colorfully hip take on a traditional story…I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Meanwhile Don’t Breathe shows professional growth in every sense, sustained tension through out, but contains one of the most disturbing acts by the final girl, incredibly graphic by any genres standards, it illicited shrieks of disgust from the entire audience. PG-13 is acceptable for mature, 13 year olds. The sustained tension and the aforementioned action alone takes Don’t Breathe (4.5/5) into hard-R territory.
Unless you’re ready to have some serious conversations with your young ones, R really means restricted for adults…. I’m just saying….