Don’t Breathe (2016): Scary Disinterest (Review)

Stephen Lang

Co-written and directed by Fede Alvarez (Rodo Sayagues was the co-author on the project) Don’t Breathe is an exercise in scary disinterest. No one character is appealing or sympathetic enough for the audience to ever really care about the outcome of this odd home invasion film.

At its core, this is what the marginally scary film is all about. A wounded veteran, played by Stephen Lang, who has been blinded in Iraq and been driven mad by the death of his only child, is targeted by three vapid and unlikeable young people. The trio decide to rob the old man of his settlement money after knocking him out with chloroform.

The vet is apparently immune to the homemade gas bomb and his dog is as well. The first of the three goes down (Daniel Zovatto as “Money” dies in a particularly graphic and impressive way – shot in the face; his lips blow out in what looks like a very realistic display of the gun’s power.)

This leaves Rocky (Jane Levy) and “Good Guy” Alex  (Dylan Minnette) to battle things out with the blind vet. There is no doubt that Lang’s character will end up on top. (The very casting of Lang ensures that the “victim” of this piece will win.)

By the end of the film, Lang’s blind man has almost impregnated Rocky, with a turkey baster, and nearly killed the young home-breaker as well. As scary as some of this film was, it lacked much in the plot department and did not feature one character that the audience could really care about.

The best parts of the film are those that feature Lang’s cold blooded but decent; “I a not a rapist,” he says while filling the baster, homicidal maniac who pulls out all the stops to defend his home and his self impregnated kidnap victim.

Don’t Breathe leaves things wide open for a sequel, where presumably the blind man hunts down the trailer trash survivor who robbed him of his replacement child and money.  He will have to travel to Los Angeles and may be a more grim version of that old blind warrior Zatoichi (which was re-imagined with Rutger Hauer in the 1989 action flick “Blind Fury.”) who uses guns instead of a sword walking stick.

The sequel may be more affected but will still suffer from having shallow and unlikeable characters. Without any one to really cheer for, apart from Lang’s vet who dishes out some well deserved retribution to those who would rob from a “helpless” veteran, this scary film’s second chapter will no doubt disappoint as well.

Lang kills it as the dangerous “cripple” who almost silent dispatches his home invaders. The rest of the young cast are adequate considering the lack of depth given their characters. Minnette, who was quite good in “Goosebumps” does not really shine here as his character is the least offensive of the three protagonists and is not really the good guy at all.

Fans of horror films may like this offering.  It is a 3.5 star effort that has some jumpy moments, no nudity, a lot of violence and a close call with a turkey baster.

Don’t Breathe is on Cinemax at the moment for steaming and can be rented via other platforms.

Oculus One Scary A** Movie (Video)

Oculus One Scary A** Movie (Video)

Horror fans can rejoice, Oculus is one scary a** movie. An advanced screening of this superior scarefest on film left me practically stunned by the time the end credits rolled. Michael Flanagan does a bang up job of piling on those moments that either have you peering sideways at the screen or ready to jump out of your skin. We’ve included the film’s trailer below.

 

Oculus One Scary A** Movie (Video)

Oculus One Scary A** Movie (Video)

Horror fans can rejoice, Oculus is one scary a** movie. An advanced screening of this superior scarefest on film left me practically stunned by the time the end credits rolled. Michael Flanagan does a bang up job of piling on those moments that either have you peering sideways at the screen or ready to jump out of your skin. We’ve included the film’s trailer below.

 

The Echo (2008): Grudge-like Terror

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I’ve just fallen in love. Not with someone, but something; the film The Echo. Amazingly it is a re-make (not, if you’ve read many of my posts or seen my YouTube channel something I am too fond of) of a Filipino film titled Sigaw (second side note – which I am currently desperately searching for) which translates as Scream or Shout.

Directed by Yam Laranas and starring Jesse Bradford, Amelia WarnerKevin Durand , and Carlos Leon The Echo lives up to it’s billing on the cover. It boast’s that the film has been made by the producers of The Grudge and The Ring. The influence of both films is very evident in this spine tingling (yes, I know cliche time but damn it fits) and scary movie.

Ex-con Bobby (Bradford) has been released from prison, he was in for involuntary man-slaughter, and is on parole. He moves into his dead mother’s apartment and gets a job working for Hector Rodriguez (Leon) as a mechanic. He hunts down his ex-girlfriend Alyssa (Warner) and they attempt to restart their earlier romance.

Meanwhile, Bobby’s neighbour, a cop (Durand) is noisy and appears to be beating his wife and daughter. And there are some strange things going on in his dead mother’s flat, not to mention some really odd noises.

This is a cracking film very much in the land of The Grudge and The Ring. It was well paced and the reveal/twist was genuinely surprising and satisfying.

"From the producers who brought you..."
“From the producers who brought you…”

The performances were spot on and I was pleased to see Bradford again as the last thing I’ve seen him in was the 2002 film Swimfan.  His wounded countenance and perplexed disposition went a long way to convincing me that his character was someone who’d always toed the line until the manslaughter incident.

Warner was brilliant as his ex-girlfriend who initially does not want to start over with Bobby and then changes her mind.

I also loved Durand in this film. The first thing I ever saw him in was the 2007 film Wildhogs and he was incredibly funny as the half-witted biker thug. In this film, he is evil, tragic, and scary.

Durand. Did I also mention creepy?
Durand. Did I also mention creepy?

This film delivered the scares in spades and almost creeped me out so much that I wanted to leave the lights on when I went to bed. Not to mention that every little (or not so little) noise had me jumping and jerking like I had an electric lead attached to my body.

SPOILER TERRITORY IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM, DO NOT READ THIS NEXT PARAGRAPH!

The ending of the film was also brilliant. While waiting for the ambulance to arrive (along with the police) we know that Bobby is screwed. Despite the fact that he has managed to save (we hope) his girlfriend, he’s broken his parole so it’s back into the “Big House” for him. Somewhat of a downer after the brilliant twist just before in the film.

OKAY, SPOILER ALERT OVER, READ ON…

loved this film and because of that, I’m giving it a full 5 star rating. It took the lessons learned from The  Grudge and The Ring and it did not blatantly copy either film. There was no “jerky” movements from anyone and no, “A-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-h,” noises either.

So, have you seen this film? What did you think about it? How about the original Filipino film? And on that note, if anyone has any idea where to find this film (the original) please, for the love of God, let me know?

The Echo 2004 aka Sigaw, anyone know of a subtitled copy, anyone??
The Echo 2004 aka Sigaw, anyone know of a subtitled copy, anyone??

The Pact (2012) It’s Not What It Looks Like

220px-The-pact-poster

Don’t let the trailers fool you. I was expecting something completely different after being bombarded with misleading trailers; first in the cinema and then on the internet. Despite my false expectations, the film surprised the hell out of me and I really enjoyed it.

Written and directed by Nicholas McCarthy The Pact is actually a “lengthening ” of his short film of the same name. The short starred Jewel Staite and I don’t mind going on record saying I think it’s a shame she wasn’t used in this version of the film.

Nicole (Anna Bruckner) is alone in her mother’s house. Mom is dead and the funeral is the next day. Nicole calls her sister Annie (Caity Lotz) and demands that she come over. Before Annie can get there, something happens to Nicole and she vanishes after going into a dark room in the hallway.

When Annie arrives, Nicole cannot be found. But according to Annie this is not unusual for her sister. After the funeral (Nicole is not there) Annie’s cousin Liz (Kathleen Rose Perkins) and Nicole’s daughter Eva (Dakota Bright) come to the house. Annie has a nightmare and when she wakes up, Liz is missing and some real scary shit is going down in the house.

It is unusual in films for an area of “occult” activity to take place in a “cracker-box” two bedroom tract house. But this movie uses this suburban setting masterfully. I will admit to jumping almost out of my skin at least three and a half times watching the events that unfolded in this little house.

I expected a completely different film. The trailers were misleading and I thought it would be like a Paranormal Activity rip-off and it did put me off a bit. I finally decided to give it a go after watching the trailer yet again and reacting to the Skype call where Nicole is talking to her daughter and she asks, “Who’s that behind you mommy?”

The was not so much a horror film as it was a supernatural thriller/mystery. The main protagonist was, once she pulled in that outthrust lower lip, someone you could warm to. She also convinced the hell out of me when she got frightened. So although I was disappointed that the lovely and talented Jewel Staite was not in this film, I did discover the considerable acting talents of Caity Lotz.

The only real problem I had was with the blind “medium/clairvoyant” character Stevie (played by Haley Hudson). The filmmakers seemed to go out of their way to make this character as strange-looking as possible. She might as well have had a sign around her neck stating, “Look! I’m weird-looking/acting and not normal! Of course I can talk to the dead!”

It was not big, nor was it clever. It was, if anything, just annoying and it detracted from the film. But despite this drawback, I still jumped like a Mexican jumping bean on speed several times and I swear that my heart stopped at least once. Pretty good for a film that is not really a horror film in the “classic” sense of the term.

So at the end of all this discourse, I have to say it’s a definite 4 out of 5 star film for me. It scared me in all the right places and it introduced me to Caity Lotz whom I don’t recall ever seeing on film before.

Put a lid on your popcorn bowl while watching this film or it will wind up all over the floor and the furniture.

Ouija believe this is actually pretty scary?
Ouija believe this is actually pretty scary?