"a thought provoking character piece on trauma and criminality hidden inside an extremely well crafted horror setting"

Three “friends” (it actually isn’t entirely clear how they became a gang) have been making a career for themselves as thieves. Alex (Dylan Minnette) utilises his father's security business to rob its customers, bypassing their security measures and meticulously planning the cover up including always keeping their ill-gotten gains on the small scale so they don’t draw too much attention to themselves. He’s the brains, Money (Daniel Zovatto) is the muscle and most believable criminal, and Alex (Jane Levy) is the female member of the group who we’re supposed to sympathise with because she’s the only one who gets a suitably tragic backstory.

Things have been going well until Money hears of a potential big score that could be easy money even if it does break Alex’s small scale rule. Said job involves a lonely old blind man who supposedly has several hundred thousand dollars hidden away in his dilapidated house in the middle of an abandoned neighbourhood. Sounds simple, but once inside the house things go wrong as The Blind Man (Stephen Lang) turns out to be an ex-soldier who has presumably “seen some s**t” in addition to being traumatised over the recent death of his daughter, and is just crazy and highly skilled enough to try and kill them all despite his impediment.

So the kids, who aren’t really bad guys they’re just desperate, enter a complex game of cat and mouse when they become locked in the house with The Blind Man hunting them down. Thing is he’s just as much a victim as they are, he’s sympathetic and not a villain as such, he’s just scared and detached from reality, that is until ... sigh ... suddenly he isn’t. If my initial description, a thought provoking character piece on trauma and criminality hidden inside an extremely well crafted horror setting, seems intriguing to you then prepare to be disappointed. Yep, there’s a twist or two here and it turns out The Blind Man isn’t what he appears to be and our trio of thieves are in serious trouble as he devolves into just another psychotic slasher movie villain and the film moves from one shock to the next with such predictable pace that all I could think about was all the other things I could have been doing with my time instead of being sat in the theatre.

I find myself reminded of why I don’t watch horror films for fun; that’s not to say there aren’t good horror films out there but being a good movie and being a good horror movie don’t seem to be the same thing. Horror has a tendency to go purely for shock value and it really feels like this film has a unique and interesting premise that it chickens out of almost immediately. I honestly think the filmmakers looked at this script and were worried it was too nuanced and interesting so decided to gradually make it get stupider to compensate.

The set pieces of our heroes trying to silently negotiate their way around the house whilst The Blind Man hunts them work brilliantly, they’re gripping and exciting and the movie could easily have survived on that alone, but no, they felt the completely pointless need to ramp up the shock value for no reason and it’s just ridiculous. Once the final truth about The Blind Man comes out no matter how grotesque it is, and it is, it can’t help but be almost comical, except the film has a crushingly dark tone so the audience isn’t even allowed in on the joke. Thus we end up laughing at
the movie rather than with it, and believe me people in my screening were laughing, it just didn’t seem appropriate.

And like I’ve said there’s no reason the original premise wouldn’t have worked, distraught highly skilled ex-soldier struggling with a myriad of personal issues ends up in a stand off with a group of reluctant teen thieves who are in over their heads. Great, some elements would have even made more sense and Stephen Lang brings some real gravity to the character even in this dopey story so he clearly could have pulled this off. Watching him break down in tears should have been moving, made you question whose side you were supposed to be on, except it isn’t and it doesn’t because he’s clearly pure evil.

Plus the kids don’t want to kill him, even after it’s really clear he deserves it, and that would have made more sense if we were able to view him as just as much a victim of circumstance as they are, but no, instead it’s just the tired horror cliche of the heroes not killing the villain when they had the chance and we all know that’s bound to be a decision they don’t grow to regret. And no spoilers but the ending leaves everyone in a questionable moral position of supposing that getting away with theft is better than getting away with murder and not to nitpick but aren’t those both bad things? It’s all so much potential wasted and whilst it’s a perfectly good movie I kind of want to hate it for that reason alone.