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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Raw Gut Suspense
by Richard Jack Smith

With chilling raw gut suspense, Donít Breathe puts other thrillers on notice. Defiance towards creativity or imagination will not do. As such, Fede Alvarezís robbery gone wrong scenario upholds progressive thinking. Expect surprises to mount in a tense maze.

While the screenplay by Alvarez and co-writer Rodo Sayagues might hold on to the horror scaffold, donít look for sinister extra-terrestrials or garden variety poltergeists. Simply witness the survival horror format taking new shape.

When three friends -- Alex (Dylan Minnette), Rocky (Jane Levy) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) -- rob a house containing $300,000 they underestimate the tenant. The latter played by Stephen Lang happens to be a former marine. Also, heís blind. Sounds easy, right? Well think again as the sightless adversary one-ups the thieves, leaving them trapped.

Allow me to express a long held admiration for Stephen Lang. Heís an extraordinarily gifted character actor. Consider his role as the Party Crasher in John Badhamís The Hard Way. He gave both James Woods and Michael J. Fox a run for their money, stealing the picture while their backs were turned. Likewise, playing the Blind Man in Donít Breathe offers the juiciest supporting role. Heís an individual with secrets and baggage that pack the script to capacity. Behind those pale, sightless pupils you will discover torment, anger and dissolution. While acting visually impaired might limit a lesser man, Lang conveys menace at every step.

Prior to Donít Breathe, Jane Levy appeared in the television series Shameless and a recent version of Evil Dead. Her work in Alvarezís thriller reveals deeper potential. Iím excited by what she does on screen, as well as whatís to come. She definitely makes hiding an art form.

Above all, I salute the filmmakers for their restraint. In particular, editorial team Louise Ford, Eric L. Beason and Gardner Gould harness important elements relative to performance, rhythm, parallel action (where two events occur simultaneously) and build-up. While their work falls under the umbrella term "seamless cutting," the net result amplifies tension and ties everything together. Thereís hardly one shot out of place here.

In short, Donít Breathe took me by surprise, and I cannot wait to rediscover such nuances on Blu-Ray.

NOTE: As an important side note, I recommend Alvarezís Panic Attack! Itís a five-minute movie from 2009, made on a shoestring budget, carrying elements of Independence Day and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. For those with a discerning gaze, thereís a quick nod to the Odessa Steps sequence in Sergei Eisensteinís The Battleship Potemkin.

(Released by Screen Gems and rated ďRĒ for terror, violence, disturbing content and language including sexual references.)

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