In the face of overwhelmingly little demand for this, The Fraudster’s Almanac proudly presents our first-ever joint review. This is a thing that you can read!
Jay: Don’t Breathe!
Jane Levy in Fede Alvarez’s really very awesome remake of Evil Dead
My good friend, who says he’s a doctor, tends to find the bad in things and use those points to explain why something isn’t good. What a terrible thing for a person to do, right? I’m glad that nobody has ever accused me of it. I was risking an argument asking him to come along, fully expecting him to try to explain to me why a horror movie’s characters act inconsistently, while still somehow maintaining that all of the terrible action movies that he was raised on are good for some reason.
But nothing ventured nothing gained, I suppose.
Jay: I know my illustrious colleague isn’t trashing The Thing or The Fly, but it’s important to point out that one can love those movies and not want to watch a malevolent tree force itself sexually on another victim; it was the worst part of the original Evil Dead. So for the record, I’ve never seen the remake.
Mark: I feel like we’re getting into some cross-talk here that may not be interesting or fun to read. My point in evoking The Thing or The Fly is to simply state that nothing is sacred or untouchable and that occasionally re-visiting existing properties can render spectacular results.
Jay: Alright, Mr. Raincloud, I’ll speed it along.
I really liked the cinematography and editing of the first act. It established the rules of the world quickly, the stakes, and the visual tone (pretty but gritty). When the pitch is made, let’s break into an old blind dude’s house and steal his money, I had a pretty good idea of where the movie was going, even if we hadn’t really seen the antagonist yet. This was distinctly more of a thriller than a horror in its set up, a reversal of the home invasion movie.
Mark: And for the most part, this attitude of one-upmanship works really well straight through to the conclusion. The film seems to recognize that it’s trading off the clever, deliberate beats that it had worked to establish in its front half in order to capitalize on increasingly ludicrous, shocking and – ultimately – entertaining turns as things ramp up. Many of the gags, while not believable or even logical in the strictest sense, are inventive and laugh-out-loud surprising. For me, the film’s rather modest scope yielded returns that left me completely satisfied and happy… albeit with a few questions.
Jay: Second: Why on earth wouldn’t you bring a flashlight to a 3am robbery of a blind man’s house?
I was also mostly along for the ride, with only one exception that pulled me out. As alluded above, there was this constant push-pull because of the three millennials being so goddamn dumb. On the one hand, I thought their pulling-punches approach was totally earned by the script, but on the other hand, there were a few too many moments where their behaviour veered into having genuinely bad survival instincts. It’s hard to root for characters who are demonstrably more stupid than the audience.
Mark: It worked for me too. This flick is clever enough to know which muscles to flex in terms of ingenuity and which not to bother with. It allows itself to be just simple/stupid enough to skate along briskly without being vapid or grating. There’s nobody to cheer for, other than yourself. You can cheer for yourself for having chosen such a fun way to spend 90 minutes.
You mentioned “millennials” and I cringe at the label. These are young people in a horror/thriller. As such, they’re really not much different from the teens that we’ve seen in horror movies from the 80s or 90s, or even today. They don’t seem much smarter or dumber than the standard cannon fodder of this genre. This movie isn’t reaching for You’re Next levels of genre subversion. It’s comfortable allowing both sides of a conflict to be sometimes-smart, sometimes-stupid. There’s something timeless about that, and I figure that this film will do quite well on home video and will vastly outlive any of the “millennial” trappings that folks may allude to.
That’s right. I’m calling it. Don’t Breathe will be remembered fondly.
Jay: I brought up the “millennials” thing because it’s the easiest reading of the movie. There is a pervasive opinion right now—or perhaps just the pervasive opinion of said pervasive opinion existing—that people born from 1980 onwards are a bunch of spoiled ingrates with no moxy, who expect everything handed to them, who don’t know the first thing about the “real world”, especially compared to their parents’ generation. And this movie simply reinforces that idea. Seriously, a blind man who probably qualifies for the senior’s discount at his local Denny’s outsmarts and overpowers a handful of twentysomethings with all their capacities intact. It’s true that horror movies have been full of dumb kids for ages, but the fact that this is a young person versus a baby boomer (rather than versus a monster or something) led me to this reading. I’m not saying it’s a reading I like, because I’m already irritated to shit with the endless thinkpieces arguing for and against a generation that inherited downward social mobility. But I can’t help but see it in the movie.