Don’t Breathe is clever on paper. What if home invaders rob a blind man, and end up trapped and hunted by him. Hollywood hasn’t been very kind to the disabled. The blind get trotted out as gimmicks or stock players. It’s admirable that Don’t Breathe’s creators gives us a differently-abled character who transcends dumb-blind sympathy. That attention and care are lacking everywhere else. Past its snappy setup, it settles for being another loud and generic horror movie.
The movie follows a group of burglars, lead by Jane Levy (Fun Size) and Dylan Minnette (Goosebumps), who rob the rich in the ruins of modern Detroit. These would-be Robin-Hoods receive a tip that an elderly blind man, played by Stephen Lang (Avatar), has a safe filled with cash in his home. The trio sets out to rob him, literally, blind. It’s soon clear that on his turf, he’s anything but disabled.
The film thrives off of gritty energy. The old man’s shattered life mirrors Detroit’s burnt out ruins. The thieves are also products of the desolate metropolis. Rocky, (Levy), has a kid and a useless mother. Minnette is trapped too, hopelessly friend-zoned by Rocky. The robbers aren’t role models, but they are sympathetic.
The premise gets old quick, souring the film. Lang’s blind man sees better than Daredevil does; rarely does it feel like he’s even blind. It’s a lean movie, clocking in at 88 minutes. Yet, it drags. How long can viewers endure watching actors fumbling in darkness? The answer is 35 minutes short of 88.
Lang’s character has a mystery about him, but its pay-off is too weak to inject the needed blood back into the story. The chases get old, and the characters won’t distract you too much from your popcorn. Most of the shocks, save for one or two chilling moments, are grosser than fear inducing.
Don’t Breathe’s twisted setup isn’t able to support the dark and joyless script. Horror movies should be dark, scary, and all those other creepy buzz-words. They should also be fun. Don’t Breathe is anything but fun.