Month: August 2016

Don’t Breathe

Rocky desperately wants to take her little sister away from their abusive home. Together with her two friends, they begin robbing houses in order to get enough money to leave town. The friends finally decide to go after the perfect heist: a blind man rumored to have hundreds of thousands of dollars stashed in his house who lives alone in a deserted part of town. Everything starts out according to plan, but things quickly go south. The blind man is more than capable of protecting his home and the many secrets that lie within.

I’m happy to say that Fede Alvarez has once again proved he is an exceptional director. This is only his second feature length film, and already he is making quite the name for himself in the horror industry. While I absolutely loved his version of Evil Dead, I’m delighted that he went in a different direction with this film. The two films are really completely different sub-genres of horror, but the one thing they have in common (besides Alvarez and actress Jane Levy) is that both films have many instances that make you cringe. Don’t Breathe is raw, unnerving, and a true thriller.

A home invasion kind of thriller isn’t anything new to the genre. It is a simple idea, but Alvarez masterfully elevates the story to a work of art. One of my favorite shots in the film is when the kids first break into the home and are trying to find the money. It is all done in one continuous take as the camera goes back and forth through the halls following the different characters. There are also many different layers to the plot. Every time you think you understand what’s going on, the plot thickens and everything is thrown into chaos. The story also has aspects that are uncomfortable to watch in the best possible way. It adds a bit of shock value, but it remains relevant to what is going on. It is not a shock just for the sake of getting a reaction from the audience.

The actors in this film are not only well cast, but they all blow me away. When talking about the acting it’s impossible to not talk about Stephen Lang (Avatar, The Monkey’s Paw) as the blind man. Lang has played military characters before, but he takes it to a place of methodical insanity in this performance. His character is brutal, unhinged, and he will not stop until he gets what he wants. Lang’s portrayal of a blind character is fantastic. If I didn’t already know he could see I would assume he was truly blind. The other standout performance is Jane Levy (Evil Dead, Suburgatory) as Rocky. We already know from Evil Dead that Levy is an amazing young talent. She is no different in Don’t Breathe. She easily adapts to the role, and the audience is instantly drawn to her. Levy’s character is compelling because you know what she is doing is wrong, but her reason behind it is sincere. That is a common theme among all the characters. Their actions may be horrible, but when you know why they do these things it makes you sympathize with them.

There are very little effects to speak of in this film. The main practical effects center around the blind man character. The blind man lost his sight while in the war, presumably from some kind of explosion. Lang wears very unsettling contacts that cloud the iris and pupil. The clouding is even more disturbing because it is muddled and uneven. They also implement some facial prosthetic to create the look of burn scars across Lang’s cheeks and a bit around his eyes. The overall look is very well done. It is realistic enough that it’s almost hard to look directly at him.

Fede Alvarez has created another thrilling work of art that makes audiences squirm. The level of intensity is this film starts early and doesn’t let up until the grand finale. There is only one even remotely bad thing I can say about this film, and it is just that I noticed a couple of editing errors while watching it. Honestly, it’s something most people probably won’t notice (and sometimes I wish I didn’t). Aside from that Don’t Breathe has a great story, phenomenal acting, and it takes a relatively simple plot then ramps it up to a level few have ventured into. This is definitely not a film for the faint of heart, so consider yourself warned.

OVERALL RATING: 9/10

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Throwback Thursday Movie: In The Mouth of Madness (1995)

John Trent is an insurance fraud investigator. After the disappearance of a famed horror author Trent is assigned the case to discover the truth behind what happened. Along with the help of the author’s editor, Linda Styles, Trent descends into a dark world. The more he learns about the author and his work, the more the lines between fantasy and reality begin to blur. It seems like there is more to this story than meets the eye.

To be completely honest, I had never heard of this movie until June of this year. I was at John Carpenter’s Live Retrospective. Carpenter started playing a theme I had never heard before and was showing scenes from a film I had never seen. As soon as I got home I looked the film up and discovered In the Mouth of Madness. After watching it for the first time 21 years after it was released I can say that this film is truly another masterpiece by the great John Carpenter. This is a very different kind of film for Carpenter. It is the kind of film where you have to pay close attention or else you might miss some vital little details. It is also different from other films that Carpenter directed in that it deals with Lovecraftian themes and it makes you question what is real.

The basic premise of the plot focuses on John Trent. When horror author Sutter Cane goes missing Trent is hired to see if Cane’s publishers faked his disappearance in order to get the insurance money. Through this investigation we as the audience are taken on a journey that does not have a linear timeline. This adds to the feeling that reality is bending as the story continues. We also learn that Cane’s books not only seem to have a psychological effect on the readers, but that they may be part of a plan to unleash monstrous creatures from another world. This plot really drew me in because it was unexpected, and it made you pay attention. If you didn’t pay attention you were likely to miss some of the best parts.

This was a brilliant performance by Sam Neill (Jurassic Park, Event Horizon) as John Trent. Neill has been in many major motion pictures, and he never disappoints. His portrayal of Trent stood out as another great performance because of the transformation his character goes through. Again, this isn’t something you see in a linear timeline. The audience is introduced to Trent towards the end of his transformation; then they get to see what lead to his downward spiral into madness. His journey as the ever practical and skeptical investigator that eventually becomes a man whose world has been turned upside down is breathtaking.

Carpenter is known for having gorgeous practical effects in his films. This one is no different. For the most part we see simple makeup effects on the people who have been infected by Cane’s writing. There were only a few of the practical effects that truly stand out. One amazing effect was of the editor, Linda Styles, as her body contorts and twists into a grotesque thing. Another practical effect from the film was brilliant because of it’s subtlety. The sweet little old inn keeper, Mrs. Pickman, becomes a horrific tentacle covered monster. What is clever about the practical effect is that you never see the monster full on. There are small close ups of a tentacle here and there, but for the most part it is a simple silhouette. The final stand out scene is when the evil beings from the other side break into our world. There are many giant, slimy, tentacle covered beasts ready to wreak havoc in our world. The effects, much like Trent’s grip on reality, become more and more fantastical as the story progresses.

The only negative I can say about this film is that I wish I had seen it sooner. In the Mouth of Madness is another marvelous work of art by John Carpenter, albeit a lesser known work. This is the kind of film that you will come back to again and again, each time finding new details that you had never noticed before. It will also stick in your mind for days after viewing, making you ponder reality, fantasy, insanity, and where the lines are drawn. All those who are in need of a horror film that will give you a mental workout, this is your film.

OVERALL RATING: 9/10