Any potential excitement for a forthcoming movie generally brings a slight sense of trepidation with it in my Movie Mind Palace. It’s an ever increasing scenario in the meditative hallowed sanctum of the cinema auditorium where some moron who hasn’t been schooled in mannerly dining and seems to be inhaling food like a wood chipper on speed, mouth agape whilst using a megaphone, or using a popcorn container like a giant adult food rattle as they seek the corn at the bottom of the box, not the choice and easy accessible silent ones at the top.
Or their spacial awareness is so warped and they think they are sitting at home in their front lounge and it’s quite okay to have a full blown conversation with their ignorance facilitating friend. And then we have the cretins who for some inexplicable reason think they are wearing Harry Potters invisibility cloak and they are the only ones who can see the torchlight glow of their phone in the middle of the room and always sit in the first few rows of the cinema so they can see their phone from the movie glow. They’d rather look at the tiny screen than the 40ft one above their heads. It’s all the equivalent a home invasion in a house of worship, and it’s times like that where I’d be okay with The Blind Man being a cinema usher.
Thankfully that wasn’t the situation for when I first saw ‘Don’t Breathe’ (2016) the new terror on the nerve shattering block by the extremely capable Fede Alvarez. He was responsible for the 2013 remake of the ‘Evil Dead’, which to be honest I wasn’t a fan of. It looks great, but lacked the droning unearthly anxiety that triggers my fear alarm. Not so on this excursion into Fearland.
There were only a few good folk (no bloody talking or spontaneous desires to check their daily love horoscope) in the room, and the screen and sound levels were terrifyingly perfect, as sharp as a freshly honed slashers blade.
The premise is really straight forward, and all the better for it. It is after all just the vehicle to drop us off on Heartstopping Street. A group of millennial reprobates are targeting various homes for supposedly easy breaking and entering. They have connections that help them chose the various houses as they continue their petty crime spree. As is the norm they get wind of a One Last Big Time Job, forgetting the slightly more important second part of It’s Too Good To Be True. My how they should have paid attention to that bit.
The mark is a war veteran in the moving mountain guise of The Blind Man (Stephen Lang), who just has to look at you with his degenerated eyes and you’ve aged 20 years, if you get to age at all, instead of your entire life flashing before you. Rumour has it that he has a lump some of money stashed away in his house. Even better (or worse), the house is in isolation in a very run down part of the city. All the other houses on the street are derelict. What could possibly wrong?
Well EVERYTHING of course! From the opening notes of the soundtrack the ominous tension button is pressed inside your self preservation centre inside your heart, Then it’s relentlessly battered for the entirety of the film. The sound production is pivotal in this movie, and as such it’s best to consider where you are going to see this for the first time. It essentially drops you into the hyper attuned sonic environment that some blind folk experience, where the ears begin to compensate from the lack of environmental information coming in through the eyes. But when you have normal eyesight such saturation of sound actually becomes incredibly unnerving, and it echoes multiple sound waves of fear around your mind.
Complacency has a very nasty bite and the situation increasingly becomes worse as it appears the Terminator clearly did boot camp under The Blind Man, being relentless in tension and the creativity of situations that are presented to the hapless arrogant fools who really kicked their ball into the wrong neighbours garden. Where if you go and ask for it back, you’ll leave without your head never mind the ball.
Considering there are only a few members in the cast, everyone has to be on form to pull it off, and they are, fantastically so. Lang is stunning and monstrous, even when he just stands still he is terrifying. The production levels are outstanding given the relatively low budget, it’s a credit to all involved. The cinematography and score are horrifically beautiful and are effectively extra characters in the movie.
It’s such a perfectly constructed house of horror, it’s so important the environment you see this in to get full value. Absolutely see this in the best cinema you can, but I for one can’t wait to own this and watch it at home through a slit in the cupboard door whilst cowering in fear.
‘Don’t Breathe’ is out now.
Read Steve’s review of Hell or High Water HERE