‘Don’t Breathe’ is a well-plotted, thrilling trap


Los Angeles (AP) – To all you Detroit-area robbery crews, we should probably warn you right away: It’s just not a good idea to pick 1837 Buena Vista Street for your big — and final — score.  Take our word for it, walk away.

Stephen Lang is shown in a scene from “Don’t Breathe.” (Gordon Timpen/Sony/Screen Gems via AP)
Stephen Lang is shown in a scene from “Don’t Breathe.” (Gordon Timpen/Sony/Screen Gems via AP)

Sure, it sounds like an easy hit.  The address is a home in a run-down section of the city, so there’s nobody around.  The house is kind of moldering, too.  And, yes, the owner is an old blind man living alone who apparently has a fortune stashed somewhere.  But, listen, let this one go.

You won’t?  Fine.  Then beware, you are walking into the well-plotted trap of Fede Alvarez, who made his Hollywood debut with the reboot of the horror classic “Evil Dead,” and returns here with “Don’t Breathe.”  It pits a team of inept burglars against a homeowner who fights back.  In that sense, it’s kind of like a twisted “Home Alone” for millennials.

This isn’t a gore-fest or a flick that relies on the supernatural.  It’s more a thriller wedded to a horror film.  Our trio of would-be predators quickly becomes hunted by the surprisingly spry old man, who happens to be a military veteran and comfortable with all sorts of weapons.  Oh, did we mention his rather nasty dog?

Written by Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues, “Don’t Breathe” is almost a throw-back to older horror films.  It’s meticulously planned and thrillingly satisfying with a camera always a step ahead — if you see an array of sharp tools near the beginning, bet on them being used at some point.  Roque Ba๑os’ discordant soundtrack manages to capture dread beautifully.

The set-up stars three young Detroiters — a brutish Daniel Zovatto, his lovely girlfriend Jane Levy and their smart friend Dylan Minnette.  They have bought into that cliche that somehow makes robbers less villainous — one last job and they’re out.

“If we do it right, we never have to do it again,” the young woman promises.  That turns out to be correct, but not in the way she means.

In their way is Stephen Lang, playing the blind guy.  He harbors a dirty little secret that the trio soon uncovers and most of the film is spent with everyone rushing about in his claustrophobic home, filled with creaky floorboards and more locks than a Lowe’s.  Everyone seems to die multiple times, even the dog.

The plot gets sort of ludicrous by the end — right around the time Lang gets to start talking — but there were moments at a recent preview where a pin could drop and make more noise than one of the poor burglars trying to do what the movie title demands.  You try standing perfectly still while an annoyed vet aims a pistol in your general direction.

So again, robbery crews are strongly advised to avoid 1837 Buena Vista, but movie-goers hoping for a thrill might like to visit.  But don’t linger.

“Don’t Breathe,” Sony Pictures, Stage 6 and Ghost House release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “terror, violence, disturbing content and language including sexual references.”  Running time: 88 minutes.  Three stars out of four.