When a group of teenagers decide to rob a blind man, they think they’ve picked the perfect target to get away with a bundle of cash hassle free; they have no idea what they’ve got themselves in for until it’s too late to turn back. A horror that made quite the splash at the US box office, starring Stephen Lang, Dylan Minnette, Jane Levy, Daniel Zovatto and Sergej Onopko. Written and directed by Fede Alvarez.
Things begin as they always do in this genre, it’s simple and everything is perfectly fine before it descends into anarchy and terror. The story is intriguing, once you are trapped inside a house, is it possible to get out when despite being blind, the home owner is an ex-military, well-prepared man? What can you do to mislead him or distract him as you try to make your getaway? Do you still go after the cash? During all of which there’s an edge of your seat tension, dying to explode. The primary problem however is the casting of particularly young and naive looking actors, with the possible exception of Jane Levy who actually doesn’t do a bad job. Then there’s Lang and while he may be a slightly fearful presence and definitely portrays someone who is dangerous, his performance runs close to the line of becoming insulting; he’s simply trying much too hard and all of his stumbling doesn’t compensate for his sudden transformation into the Michael Myers of modern Detroit. Then there’s Minnette, fresh off Goosebumps, which was unfortunately a bad transition as it’s difficult to take him seriously, his youth gets entirely in the way of the plot, it doesn’t feel dark and gritty, the clear theme and atmosphere they’re trying to achieve is overridden by reactions more suited to the version of horror you get from the Scream series.
The next major problem it has is that the horror elements are not quite in balance, the scales tip more to thriller with a few jump scares thrown in but nothing particularly scary in general; of course that’s entirely dependent on the viewer, many may find Stephen Lang’s blind man frightening but it only goes so far. It’s unfortunate that before too long it starts to wander down roads of predictability and cheaper tactics, as well as becoming entirely too unrealistic; Alvarez also seems to have a particular obsession with foreshadowing, meaning that many moments of the film you can see coming a mile off because he’s basically thrown up a sign saying what’s going to happen, 10 or 15 minutes before it does. Things are inherently less scary when you know they’re coming, it’s difficult to judge the film because although it does have some great tension running throughout to keep you watching, it lacks in the scare department and you could say it’s a good film but it has several problems that make it not quite as good as it could be. It starts out as something new but becomes something you’ve seen before.
All that aside, it is still an entertaining watch in a genre that has a dire success rate, although one particular scene will certainly divide audiences into whether it is in fact scary, creepy, disgusting, just plain wrong or all of the above. It does fall foul of its own hype as many do these days but despite all its issues it would be incorrect to say that it’s not worth watching; it may not be the horror film of the decade or even year but as far as picking a film for a night in goes, it’s not a bad choice.