Wednesday, August 31, 2016

It Came From The Cineplex: Don't Breathe

Welp, Summer Movie Slaughter 2016 was brutal on the ol' box office, but believe it or not things are about to get even worse. Prepare yourselves for a Fall full of films the studios didn't think were good enough to premiere during the crowded summer months.

Don't Breathe was written by Redo Sayagues and Fede Alvarez, and directed by Fede Alvarez. 

The pair previously co-wrote the Evil Dead remake, which Alvarez also directed. That's pretty much the only thing of note they've done up to now. The film was produced by Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert, which I guess makes sense, as they were the masterminds behind the original The Evil Dead.

Don't Breathe is an adequately written film that's more tense and suspenseful than scary. It's not really a horror film, although it shares many of the tropes, including an unstoppable foe and even a Final Girl.

I was actually looking forward to seeing this film. Well, as much as anyone can look forward to a movie in these days of endless remakes and sequels. Sadly, it didn't quite live up to my expectations. That'll teach me to have hope!

The film has a very odd sense of morality, as everyone in it's on the wrong side of the law. This is far from the first film that encourages you to identify with criminals— most heist films (such as Ocean's 11) force you to pull for the crooks and hope they make their big score. Don't Breathe does the same, as it practically sprains a hamstring trying to get us to root for poor little old put-upon Rocky, despite the fact that she's a robber and a thief. Odd.

Stephen Lang— Col. Quaritch of Avatar fame— stars as the Blind Man (no names please), and is absolutely terrifying in the film. His nearly silent portrayal is riveting, and I have no doubt whatsoever that his character could easily whup the tar out of any sighted opponent. Jane Levy stars as Rocky, the ostensible "heroine" of the film. Levy was also in the Evil Dead remake, and is apparently a favorite of Alvarez. Dylan Minnette plays Alex, the smart and sensitive burglar in the film. Minnette is from my home town of Evansville, Indiana! A quick glance at IMDB says he was born in 1996, one year before I moved here. Jesus Christ! Excuse me while I go take my rheumatiz medicine.

Don't Breathe is the latest in the popular "Blind Avenger" subgenre, in which a visually-impaired man, who usually knows some sort of martial arts, easily kicks the ass of his sighted opponents. Other examples include The Book Of Eli, Daredevil, Blind Fury and the Zatoichi series. It's a pretty popular (if totally unbelievable) genre.


The Plot:
Rocky, her boyfriend "Money" and her friend-zoned pal Alex are three twenty-something thieves living in the remains of Detroit, who make their living robbing the homes of the rich. Because rich people are automatically evil and don't deserve their wealth, dontcha know.

Rocky dreams of earning, er, I mean stealing enough money to get out of Detroit and move to California with Money and her little sister "Diddy" (Jesus Christ, who named these characters?). Alex is the brains of the operation, and only targets homes protected with systems from his father's security company. He has everything figured out down to the letter, constantly warning the others not to steal cash, and to keep their hauls under $10,000 to prevent them from receiving serious jail time if caught.

They rob a mansion and take the goods to their fence, but are upset when they only receive a paltry amount for the merchandise. The fence tells Money he knows of a really big score— an old man living in a deserted neighborhood, whose daughter was killed in a drunk-driving accident. The family paid the man $300,000 in an out of court settlement and he never deposited any of it, meaning the dough has to be hidden somewhere in his house. Just how the fence knows all this incredibly specific and detailed info is apparently none of our business.

Money talks (heh) Rocky and Alex into robbing the old man's home. They find his house and stake it out, and see the old man slowly tapping his way down the street with a white, red-tipped cane. Rocky and Alex are reluctant to rob a blind man, but Money says that'll make their job even easier (!).

That night the three approach the Blind Man's house, and find it guarded by a large Rottweiler. They drug the dog, and Rocky sneaks into the house through a small window. She disables the security system and lets the other two in. Money finds the Blind Man asleep in his room and gasses him so they can go about their work. They search in some incredibly ridiculous places, but can't seem to find the money. Apparently the Blind Man didn't set the giant stack of money on a silver plate with a sign pointing to it.

Money finds a locked door and assumes that's where the cash is. He shoots the lock off the door, and they're all startled as 
the Blind Man staggers into the hallway. I guess he was immune to the gas? 

Money says he doesn't want any trouble and pulls out his gun. This isn't an ordinary Blind Man though, as he quickly grabs the weapon and turns it on Money, pinning him against the wall. He asks Money how many of them are in the house, and he lies and says it's just him. As Money begs for his life, the Blind Man shoots him in the head. Horrified, Rocky hides in a closet. The Blind Man then opens the closet (almost bumping into Rocky) and reveals a safe with a keypad lock. He opens the safe (as Rocky watches, noting the combination) and checks to make sure his money's still inside. Satisfied, he leaves. He then begins locking all the doors and windows, trapping Rocky and Alex inside.

Alex finds Rocky and says they've got to get out of the house. Rocky tells him to wait a minute as she opens the safe and stuffs the money in her backpack, because she's a gal with priorities. They then make their way down to the basement to escape.

As they're about to make it out the basement door, they're surprised by a gagged woman who's handcuffed to the wall. She holds up an old newspaper article, and they realize she's Cindy, the woman who was acquitted in the accidental death of the Blind Man's daughter. Apparently he didn't agree with the judge's ruling, somehow kidnapped her (!) and is holding her hostage in his basement. Alex wisely wants to get the hell out, but Rocky frees the woman and helps her toward the door.

As they open the basement door, they see the Blind Man has somehow teleported to the other side and is waiting for them. He fires the gun, shooting Cindy in the face. Rocky and Alex hide again, and the Blind Man stumbles over Cindy's body. He recognizes her by touch and cries out in anguish, which seems like an odd way to react to a dead captive.

He then turns out the lights in the basement, blinding Rocky and Alex and leveling the playing field. They stagger around the basement, comically flailing their arms around in front of them. The Blind Man grabs Alex and shoots at him, but his fifteen shooter is finally out of bullets. Alex pushes a heavy shelf down on him, grabs Rocky and runs back upstairs.

There's then a ton of cat and mouse shenanigans, as Rocky and Alex run from both the Blind Man and the dog, which has regained consciousness. The Blind Man catches Alex and punches him in the face multiple times, and then seemingly stabs him in the chest with garden shears. Yowch! He catches Rocky and takes her back to the basement.

Rocky wakes up and see she's chained to the wall, just like Cindy was. The Blind Man 
starts monologuing, explaining his master plan. He says that since Cindy took his daughter away from him, she owed him a new one. To that end he captured and impregnated her (!), claiming he'd let her go once she gave birth. He says Rocky's responsible for Cindy's death, so now she owes him a kid. He removes a sperm sample from a freezer, fills a turkey baster with it and heads toward Rocky. She screams as she sees viscous white fluid dripping sensuously from the tip of the baster. Seriously, movie? We're really going there?

Alex appears in the knick of time and knocks out the Blind Man with a hammer. Whaaa?Apparently the Blind Man only thought he killed Alex, and actually stabbed Money's already dead body. They handcuff the Blind Man to the wall, and Rocky takes time out to kick him multiple times and shove the turkey baster down his throat. Jesus Christ, movie! Enough with the semen fetish already!

They head back upstairs to leave, and as they open the front door, the Blind Man has apparently teleported again, and kills Alex for real this time. Rocky runs past him and out the door, but the dog follows. Using her Flash super-speed powers, she manages to outrun a goddamned Rottweiler.

She makes it back to Money's car and locks herself in as the dog throws itself at the windows, as the movie abruptly turns into a Cujo remake. Unfortunately she doesn't have the keys to the car, so she can't simply drive off. She manages to open the trunk and lure the dog in as she leaps out the door, trapping it inside.

Ah, but the movie's not over yet! The Blind Man teleports again and appears behind Rocky, knocking her out. He then drags her down the middle of the street, in a replay of the opening scene. Lucky for him he's the only person left in his neighborhood! 

He takes Rocky back into the house. She wakes up just in time and activates the alarm system, which overwhelms his sensitive hearing, causing him to place his hands over his ears in a manner that would make William Shatner blush. While he's distracted, Rocky uses a crowbar to beat him in the head several times. He falls backward into the basement, seemingly dead (as if). Rocky takes the money and escapes seconds before the police arrive.

Cut to a train station where Rocky and Diddy are about to embark on their new lives in Californy. Rocky sees a news report stating that the Blind Man somehow survived his injuries (natch!) and is in stable condition after killing two burglars who broke into his home. For some reason he didn't tell the police there were three intruders. Rocky nervously hurries Diddy onto the train.

• The film begins with a scene of the Blind Man dragging Rocky by her hair down the middle of his deserted street, in broad daylight.

The second I saw that, I thought, "Well, we can go. We know how it ends!" Why the f*ck would anyone in their right mind start a movie like that, by showing us the goddamned ENDING in the opening seconds? 

I will NEVER understand this so-called film "technique." I don't mind brief flashbacks in a film, in which a character thinks back to an important moment in their life. But I can't stand it when the entire movie is a flashback and we see the ending first, making it pointless to watch the thing (see Life Of Pi for a perfect, frustrating example of this. On second thought, don't see it).

• On a related note, Money's death at the hands of the Blind Man might have been more shocking if it hadn't been revealed in the goddamned trailer. Again, why?

• Just who am I supposed to be rooting for in this film? Obviously the movie wants me to identify with Rocky, who wants nothing more than to get out of Detroit and away from her horrible mother. But she's a burglar! A burglar who has no problem stealing money from a goddamned blind man to realize her dream!

When the Blind Man was introduced I thought, "Ah, I see (heh). I'm supposed to identify with him, because he's a sympathetic character who's suffered multiple tragedies in his life, and is just minding his own business when these punks break into his home.

But then we find out he's more depraved than the other three characters combined, as he's somehow kidnapped a woman and artificially inseminated her so she can replace the daughter she took from him. Yikes!

I honestly have no sympathy for ANY of these characters! It's tough to care about what happens in a film when EVERYONE is a despicable asshole.

This is an actual headline I saw on the information super highway. "A Relentless Home Invasion Thriller That Borders On Unpleasant." I guess that's in stark contrast to all those Home Invasion films that are lighthearted and delightful.

• Is Rocky's sister "Diddy" (Yeah, that's really the poor child's name) supposed to be brain damaged, or is the kid who plays her just a really bad actress? Any time Diddy speaks, she does so reeeeeally slowwwwwly, like there's legitimately something wrong with her. Her horrible skank of a mom looks like she probably wouldn't have had a problem with drinking while pregnant, so... I'm guessing brain damage.

• This isn't really a problem, just an observation. The Blind Man is the last person still living in his deserted neighborhood. His home is the only one on the block with a fresh coat of paint and a freshly mowed lawn, as all the others are dilapidated and decrepit. 

I'm assuming he probably pays someone to paint his house and maintain his yard when needed. I doubt a blind man could paint a two story home like his. Or cut the grass. Not even a super-powered blind man like this one.

• Let's talk about Cindy for a minute. She's the woman who accidentally killed Emma, the Blind Man's daughter, in a drunk driving accident. The movie would have us believe that he somehow kidnapped Cindy and is holding her hostage in a padded room in his basement.

I'm honestly at a loss to understand how the Blind Man could have possibly abducted this woman. There's no way in hell he tip-tapped his way across town to her mansion, knocked her out and dragged her all the way back home unseen.

The only possible scenario I can come up with is maybe he called her and asked her to come to his house to talk, and then grabbed her when she knocked on the door? I can't imagine her agreeing to such a meeting though. And even if she did, there's no way she'd go to his house alone. And even if she did go alone, wouldn't her family call the police? And wouldn't he be the prime suspect in her disappearance, despite his disability?

I know, I know, suspension of disbelief and all that. But this is one part of the plot I just couldn't get past.

• When the Blind Man tells Rocky she's going to replace the daughter who was taken from him, he says, "I'm not a rapist. I will not force myself on you." He then cuts a hole in her pants and prepares to jam a semen-filled turkey baster into her nether regions.

Um… sorry to burst your bubble here, Blind Man, but the official definition of rape is "the unlawful sexual intercourse or penetration of the vagina of another person by a sex organ, other body part, or foreign object, without the consent of the victim." So yeah, you're a rapist.

• So where did this whole impregnation subplot come from? The movie's a taut and suspenseful home invasion story, and then all of a sudden it takes a very dark and uncomfortable turn. I'm sure it was meant to be shocking, but it might have been a little too shocking. And disturbing. And just plain gross. I kind of wanted to take a shower after watching it.

• I am not a fan of the film's views on atheism. 
After the Blind Man captures Rocky and is about to impregnate her, she screams to God for help. The Blind Man snorts derisively and says there is no God. He says no loving deity would ever allow all the horrible things that have happened to him, and that once you realize there's no God, it's amazing what you're capable of.

Cheezus, who wrote that dialogue, Phil Robertson

The idea that all atheists are soulless, amoral killing machines is absurd, and just as offensive as the notion that all Muslims are terrorists and all priests are pedophiles.

Sure, there may well be a few atheists who are remorseless killers, but how much blood has been spilled in the name of God over the centuries? There are saints and sinners in any group.

It's entirely possible to be an atheist and still be a model citizen. They're not mutually exclusive concepts. In fact I would go so far as to say the vast majority of atheists are more moral than believers. Atheists are good because it's the right thing to do. Believers are good because they either expect a Heavenly reward or because they fear punishment from their angry, petulant god.

I'm hoping Alvarez is just giving the Blind Man a character trait here, and that he doesn't really believe this tripe about the inherent immorality of all atheists.

• Since we're living in the Age Of Franchises, the filmmakers couldn't just make a simple "one and done" film. The Blind Man somehow survives his ordeal at the end of the film so can return and star in a series of sequels of ever-diminishing quality.

Don't Breathe is a dark little suspense film with a mean streak a mile wide. It's fairly well-written aside from one very gaping plot hole, and an unnecessary anti-atheist agenda. It also suffers from having no clear-cut heroic characters, as everyone in the film is a criminal in one form or another, giving the audience no one to really root for. But hey, at least it's not a remake or a sequel! I'm struggling to figure out a grade here. I liked it OK for the most part, but I have no desire to ever see it again. I'm thisss close to giving it a B-, but in the end I think I'm going to have to give it a C+

1 comment:

  1. As an atheist, I'm glad to see you were as put off by this terrible movie's apparent views on the godless as I was. Appreciate you giving us some credit 'cuz this movie sure as hell didn't.


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