M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Six of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2015 and going through September 30, 2016. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!

Released on August 26, 2016. Available on DVD, BluRay, and On Demand from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment!

DON’T BREATHE (2016)

aka A MAN IN THE DARK
Directed by Fede Alvarez
Written by Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues
Starring Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, Emma Bercovici, Franciska Töröcsik, Christian Zagia, Katia Bokor, Sergej Onopko, Olivia Gillies
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DON’T BREATHE is that kind of rock solid horror film you just don’t often see. Meticulously constructed and tightly written, filmmaker Fede Alvarez and his co-writer Rodo Sayagues have built a masterful play on tension, terror, shock, and awe.

Three young criminals (Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, and Daniel Zovatto) stake out the home of a blind man (Stephen Lang), thinking he’s an easy mark for their next heist. But once inside, they realize they have bitten off more than they can chew and find themselves trapped in the dark lair of a madman.

Let’s start with the performances here. Stephen Lang has always proven himself as an actor who will give his all for a role. Be it as the cowardly gunslinger Ike Clanton in TOMBSTONE or sleazy reporter Freddy Lounds in MANHUNTER or more recently as the psychotic Colonel Miles Quaritch in AVATAR, he always stands out as an amazing character actor. But in DON’T BREATHE, he gets to shine brightly as the main menace for the three unsuspecting burglars. Lang is able to convey sympathy in the early moments as he is portrayed as a weak blind man suffering from the loss of his daughter and family. But once the lights go out and revelations are revealed, Lang shows how vicious he becomes and is equally convincing as someone you would never want to mess with.

The rest of the cast is pretty talented as well with young Jane Levy leading the pack as Rocky, the crook with the heart of gold who just wants to get this one big score so she can move to California and get her little sister out of a horrific home environment. Levy was great in Alvarez’s last film THE EVIL DEAD remake and while in that film, she spent the whole time either coming down from drugs or being possessed or both, she gets to show a whole lot more range here. Levy is tough as nails, but still manages to maintain that fragile quality that makes the viewer feel like she can really get hurt here in this situation and is not some kind of cartoon heroine.

And that’s what makes this film so good. It’s simply unpredictable. You don’t know who, if anyone, will survive. Nothing is taken for granted and no convention should be relied upon. Just when you think the characters you’ve been following are safe, suddenly they are back in the middle of a nightmare. Alvarez constructs an amazing nightmare with multiple levels, various threats, and all sorts of surprises. He focuses in on specific details at the beginning of the film, letting us know that these things are going to be important later in the film. Much like Hitchcock, Alvarez shows us his hand. He maps out the hell these characters are moving around in and then with that knowledge, manages to keep us on the edge of the seat waiting for him to use the imagery, props, and tools that he has shown us at the beginning. This is a sophisticated level of storytelling here, as it could become predictable, but Alvarez defies prediction. He may show us a hammer hanging on a wall or a piece of glass on the ground, but we have no idea how it’s going to come into play later. We just know it is there and by letting us know about every aspect of this environment the action is going on in, he puts the viewer on edge as to how it is all going to play out given that knowledge.

On top of the expert construction, this film isn’t afraid to go into areas seldom covered in mainstream horror. One scene in particular (hint: it involves a turkey baster) is something I was shocked to see happening in a big budget theater and the audience I saw this film seemed to be utterly shocked as well. This is a film that feels dangerous to watch because it allows itself to plunge deep into real human horror and feels fearless in how far it will go. For that, I respect DON’T BREATHE a whole hell of a lot.

Exciting from beginning to end, DON’T BREATHE is a really satisfying horror film from a filmmaker I hope has a long career in the genre. Alvarez shows he is able to act as a tour guide through an absolutely horrific situation and fills every moment with all sorts of terrors that are all the more potent because everything is set in the world we live in. In a medium where the only horrors we see are cut and paste haunted house fare from BlumHouse, DON’T BREATHE is a breath of fresh air for the genre.

Click here for the trailer!


THE 2015-2016 COUNTDOWN!


#6 – DON’T BREATHE
#7 – TRAIN TO BUSAN
#8 – THE FINAL GIRLS
#9 – THE SHALLOWS
#10 – MASKS
#11 – KRAMPUS
#12 – AVA’S POSSESSION
#13 – BODY
#14 – THE WAILING
#15 – THEY LOOK LIKE PEOPLE
#16 – MORGAN
#17 – DEATHGASM
#18 – 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE
#19 – DER BUNKER
#20 – DECAY
#21 – EMELIE
#22 – NINA FOREVER
#23 – HUSH
#24 – THE MIND’S EYE
#25 – DARLING
#26 – SUN CHOKE
#27 – SUMMER CAMP
#28 – BASKIN
#29 – HOLIDAYS
#30 – THE HALLOW
#31 – SOUTHBOUND


M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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