In a plot made popular by movies like Panic Room and Trespass, three teenagers, out of boredom, nothing better to do or maybe just to provide us with reason for a movie rob houses in Detroit. But the girl seems to be the only one with real motivation; she’s desperate to leave the house, her skanky mother and the mother’s grunge boyfriend and take her kid sister with her. The girl’s boyfriend then comes up with a ‘brilliant’ plan – to go deep inside abandoned and crumbling inner Detroit and rob a blind veteran who received a six-figure settlement from a hit-and-run that took his daughter’s life.
Sounds easy, no?
The criminals thought so too – until they start to find themselves in a nightmare that plays like a Stephen King novel come to life. You know, kind of like the friendly neighborhood dog that minds its business – until an unfortunate sequence of events.
As expected, our lead characters are two boys Alex and Money, and the inevitable girl, Rocky.
PS: You get nothing if you guess who’s left alive by the end of the movie.
Money is Rocky’s boyfriend, Alex is the one who tags along on their hare-brained schemes because 1) his father works at a security company and therefore has access to all kinds of keys and key-codes (which simply means they need him and not vice versa), and 2) he’s half in love with Rocky himself and hopes she sees Money for the using scum he is and consider him her knight in shinning.
Pathetic. I know.
Anyways, Rocky is really desperate to get away from her deadbeat existence and so keeps going with Money into these houses hoping to find a big score. And then, Money stumbles on; in another attempt to turn a stereotype on its head; a nice house on a nasty street.
Well, that is till they go inside.
Done with intense smoothness by Federico Alvarez, same guy behind the 2013 Evil Dead remake, Don’t Breathe is a stunning thriller/horror film that will have you by the throat through most of the narrative. There are times during the movie in which you will actually forget to breathe – and then, whatever it is that had you by the throat will suddenly let go.
First is the claustrophobia-inducing closeness of the house, the fact that the antagonist barricades his doors and windows the moment he realizes he’s no longer alone, effectively trapping the viewers along with the criminals. And then, there’s the truly-horrifying trip to the basement in which the blind man puts out the lights, putting the fight on fairer terms and exposing the crooks to some truly horrible sights – and the most memorable line of the movie –
“There is nothing a man cannot do once he accepts the fact that there is no God”
As an aside, it was truly amusing to watch a thief who broke into someone’s house pray to God after things went awry – and yet, isn’t that what we do? Isn’t that why it’s logically more appealing to embrace the notion that there’s no one looking out for you, and that you and you alone are responsible for your life?!
I’m just saying.
Interestingly too, the story introduces a number of significant plot twists that has us rooting for the thieves – even though they clearly are the invaders in here.
This brings to mind Fela’s world-famous line; “When trouble sleep, yanga go wake am’.
The movie does go a bit overboard in the last ten-fifteen minutes, with some annoying and surrealistic escape-capture-escape-capture-again sequence, which has the tendency to frustrate the viewer and make said viewer want the film to just be over. And then, another major twist ending leaves the viewer – along with the survivor(s) – wondering if there’s more to the story than what was seen, as wrenching as it was. And then, as I mentioned before, the movie leaves you wondering who you should be rooting for; the thieves who broke into a blind man’s home and got more than they bargained for, or the old man who turned out to be more than anyone bargained for – even the viewer. The media makes a straight-up hero of one of our antagonists and straight up criminal of another – and you cannot help but wonder; if the director isn’t middle-fingering America in that one moment.
I don’t know if the movie had a score; I didn’t even notice to be honest. I doubt music could have added anything to the fear and scare of the movie as you follow, scene by scene and wonder; if truly we have any control over our lives; if truly we are victims of our own choices or we are victims of fate.
Don’t Breathe made $152 million on a $10 million budget and earning rave reviews. Hold your breath –
And don’t let go. Not at least till you see this movie – already on my 2016 best movies list.
From June 8, I will be telling horror stories on Twitter. What that means is Monday nights for four weeks, I will be tweeting stories – stories intended to scare you, put a chill in your bones and a scream in your throat –
Don’t mind me.
I won’t be tweeting links, the actual stories will be told on Twitter! Every Monday from June 8, a new story title will be announced via # so you can curate and follow the story!
Sounds fun, right? Just follow the #TwitterAfterDark #StoryTitle – for example if next week’s story is Bullet For Brains, that Monday’s hashtag is #BulletForBrains.
Share your Monday nights with me – and I’ll write you a new prescription for terror.
I got more than my fair share of support (God bless you!) and quite a number of mails concerning whether other writers could contribute. And then I thought, ‘why not?’ So instead of just #MondayFrightNights we’ll be having Monday and #FridayFrightNights! How cool is that? Mondays I’ll be sharing my own stories, Fridays I’ll be sharing stories from other writers! Two for the price of none! What do you think? Let me know in the comments, please!
UPDATE II: Monday Night Frights will remain on Mondays.
Thank you so much for your feedback and prompts.
God bless y’all!
Thank you. Have a great week!
#MondayFrightNights begins in a few hours.
Innocent blinks like an owl caught in sunlight as he wakes up slowly. For some seconds he is completely disoriented, and then it all comes rushing back to him. The promotion…the congratulations…the surprise party…the Hennessey…
He is supposed to be at work. He sits up suddenly, winces and grabs his head.
What a hangover.
He shifts on the bed to get off it – and suddenly realizes he is still wearing his work clothes. A frown settles on his smooth features. He couldn’t have been that drunk. He stops moving and tries to remember exactly what happened after the party…but nothing comes up. It’s all blank.
He can’t even remember how he got home.
His glance is drawn to the bedside table – specifically to the wedding day picture of him and his wife that had been on that table since they got married. He sees his own grinning face from where he is sitting – but there’s something not quite right about the other person in the picture.
He leans forward and picks up the picture frame, noting that the glass that protected the picture from dust was absent. He runs his fingers over the picture, wondering how and when that happened…
“Good morning baby! Congratulations again! You were so tired yesterday I couldn’t disturb you. But what do you say to some early morning celebrating?”
Innocent freezes. There’s something wrong with the voice.
He turns on his behind, intending to ask his wife why she sounds like that.
And then he takes one look at the woman who obviously just came out of the bathroom, barely-there towel showing off long, lean light-skinned thighs to advantage. She leans against the door of the room – smiling coquettishly.
Innocent takes one look at her.
Okay. Thank you so much for staying with me. I really hope you enjoyed that!
There’s obviously something going on in the above story – but I leave you to figure that out. There’s something I’d like to ask you though.
Are you who you are because you know it, or are you who you are because everybody else says that’s who you are?
I mean, if you woke up one morning and everyone around you said you weren’t who you thought you were all your life; your husband/wife/
girlfriend/friends/the MTN-card selling girl on the corner all suddenly said they did not know you, would you still be you?
Imagine Innocent; going from knowing and being unknown to not knowing and being known.
Do ask yourself; what is identity? And just what makes us…US?
Please have a frabolous – yes; F-R-A-B-O-L-O-U-S weekend!
You may also like: True Fear I
Innocent woke up screaming and kicking like a drowning man.
It seemed to him that he had been having the worst nightmare of his life. But he woke up, and the nightmare continued.
The woman, now wearing blue jeans and a black blouse was sitting on a chair watching him. The moment he came fully awake, she jumped up and looked at him in fear.
“Are you awake now?” she asked, sounding an interesting mix of ‘concerned’ and ‘afraid’. “Can you start leaving? My husband…”
Innocent sat up, fiery grip of hangover headache replaced with the cold grip of fear. There was no rational explanation for what was happening to him, and it was too pat to be a setup. Still…
“Henrietta, how can you be talking like this?! I am your husband! We met on our way to camp in 2003…Nasarawa. We played around for a bit – and then became serious in 2005 after we…”
The woman suddenly burst out laughing. “Oh oh! So, you and my husband set this up abi? Hehehehehehehe!” she laughed, sounding relieved. “Oya, where is he?”
Innocent stood up slowly, quickly clutching the towel as it started to unravel from around his waist. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he told the still-chuckling Henrietta. “I did not agree with anyone to set you up. I am your husband – Innocent Asuke.”
She laughed again. “I thought you were going to say ‘Idibia’. Are you sure that’s not your name?”
Innocent didn’t see what the joke was. “Henrietta, do I look like I’m joking?”
She looked at him. “You’re not my husband. Do you want to see the wedding certificate?”
Innocent shook his head. Looking around him for the clothes he had discarded earlier, he started to wear them slowly. When he was fully dressed, he took his keys and phone from the bedside table and dumped them in his pocket. Then he picked up the toothbrush he’d dropped earlier and placed it on the bedside table in front of the picture, the picture whose glass he had smashed. He did not look up till he was done, and even then he did not look at the woman.
“Are you leaving?” she asked him. When he did not answer – just walking past her towards the living room and the exit, she said “How did you get in sef? When did you get in?”
Innocent did not answer, walking slowly towards the main door instead. When he got there, he pulled out a bunch of keys and easily opened the door. He stood at the door and regarded her with calm coldness.
“Henrietta Omuna,” he began, noting with pleasure how her eyes widened at his use of her grandma’s pet name for her, “I don’t know what’s going on, but I’ll see how long you want to keep this charade up for. And then…”
He walked out of the door and shut it behind him. He looked around him to be sure he was in the right neighborhood, and nodded on recognizing his landlord’s grey Toyota Camry. In fact, maybe it would be better if he just spoke to the man…
“Hey! Who are you? Who are you looking for so early in the morning?”
Innocent looked towards the direction the voice was coming from and spotted a portly man wielding a wooden cane walking towards him. It was his landlord of course – except there was no indication that the man had seen him before.
He automatically started backing away, realizing how awkward it would be telling the man the same story he had just been telling Henrietta. He mumbled something about ‘wrong address’ and slowly made his way towards the gate a few meters away.
He would have made it to but for the fact that Henrietta chose that moment to open the door and yell “THIEF!”
Not waiting to see what the landlord’s reaction would be, Innocent broke into a run. He actually took a moment to appreciate the joke of his situation; running for his life from his house – or at least the house he paid rent for, before he flew at the gate full speed.
Fortunately for him it was open, and he ran through hoping the neighbors wouldn’t be interested in the commotion. Most of them should be at work anyways…
That was as far as he got before the truck smashed into him.
True Fear III: Stormy Days
“Who are you?” the woman asked again.
Innocent, all traces of his headache receding folded his arms and looked at the woman. “Na joke you dey joke abi you don dey madt?”
Slowly, she stood up and tightened the towel around her body. She was still trembling a little bit – but it was not as bad as it was in the beginning. Innocent repeated his question, but this time he added her name.
“How do you know my name?”
He looked at her, trying to see if there was a smile lurking around in her eyes – or at least another clue that would indicate to him that there was something going on. But you don’t live with someone for five years, day in day out and not at least have an idea of the kind of person they are deep down.
There was nothing about the woman’s mien or demeanor to suggest she was anything but serious.
Innocent didn’t know what to make of it.
“I don’t know who you are and I don’t care. But do you know what will happen if my husband finds you here like this?”
His heart thumping loudly in his chest, Innocent shouted, “Henrietta, are you mad?! I’m your husband!”
The woman shivered. “You?! My husband?!” She shook her head slowly. “Look, please don’t put me in any wahala. I beg you in God’s name – I have never been a bad wife…” she stopped talking as Innocent turned and stormed back into the room. “The door is not there o!” she yelled as she followed him.
Innocent did not answer. Instead, he walked to the bed, snatched up the picture frame on the bedside table and handed it to the woman hurrying up beside him without looking at it. She took the frame from him and looked at it, and then handed it back to him. “Look,” she said.
Sour taste of unexpended adrenaline in his throat, Innocent looked at the picture that had been beside that bed for the same amount of time he had been married to Henrietta. It was a picture of a bride and groom, holding each other and promising each other forever with their eyes. It was a picture of what is hailed as one of the happiest days in a woman’s life, the day she officially becomes one with her man…
Except ‘the’ man in this case; the man in the picture was no one Innocent knew or had seen before.
Obviously, it wasn’t him.
He felt as though the ground was shifting underneath his feet and he put out his hand to steady himself. The small frame fell from his hands, and as though from a distance, he heard the woman’s tiny keening cry…
And everything went black.
True Fear II: The Darkness Before Dawn
The woman took one look at him and screamed.
Screaming women are not exactly a strange occurrence in Nigeria. Actually, there is a whole lot for women to scream about around these parts, both in happiness and otherwise. What made the whole situation, well….weird, is the fact that this was a wife who was screaming at the sight of her husband.
In the morning.
He had known Henrietta since NYSC days. They had met at the park in Jos, and they were headed to the same Nasarawa camp. Talking throughout the journey – they were fast friends by the time they got to the camp. One year later, they were best buddies. Romance had not occurred to either one of them then.
But as it is with life and related stuff, they somehow found their love lives intertwining and then, one fateful night after watching Stop Loss at the Galleria, he had suddenly kissed her, expecting to be slapped or something more dramatic. But after her initial hesitation, her lips had clung to his and she sagged in his arms. They just took it from there.
That was five years ago and they had been married for three of those years. And while she had her faults and flaws – same as everybody else, and they had no children yet, she was a wonderful wife to Innocent.
They loved each other.
So it is therefore understandable. Innocent’s reaction, that is.
His jaw became unhinged literally. As in, it left the safety of his mouth and dropped. It fell, hit his chest, bounced and returned to its original position, closing with a soft ‘click’.
“What is it?” he asked the woman who was looking at him as though he had worms growing out of his ears. He started forward, intending to reach and hold her – but she screamed a few decibels louder, running a red-hot suya rod through his already-burdened hot-fufu-laden-brain and effectively halting his advance. Her scream was a keening sound that tore at the fabric of his sense with jagged iron teeth.
“Stop! Henrietta, for the love of God, STOP!” he yelled, convinced his head was going to fall off. The loud scream was cut off as abruptly as power supply, and the woman stood in the doorway, cowering in fear. “What is wrong with you?” Innocent asked.
Voice trembling and vibrating as though she was talking into a working fan, the woman answered, “W…what do you want?”
“What do I want?” Innocent replied stupidly, blinking like a frog suddenly caught at the edge of a pool. “What do I want?” he said again.
“Is it money?” the trembling woman asked. “Is it…” she shook her head as the words stuck in her throat. “Please, please just don’t hurt me,” she said from slumped position against the door.
Innocent reached her in three strides, grabbed and shook her fiercely. “Are you crazy? Henrietta, are you mad?!”
The woman pushed him away from her and backed out of the room, well-developed bosom heaving. “Who are you?! How did you get in here? What are you doing in my husband’s towel…and…and how do you know my name?”
Like the way a high-powered fan blows away clouds of Raid and other related things – her words blew away the fumes of alcohol that hung around his brain. His knees trembled and threatened to spill him on all fours – but he ignored that and stared at his wife.
“Henrietta….?” his words ended in the air like the plaintive wail of an abandoned puppy. The woman, a bit calmer held the towel against her body and asked again.
“Who are you?”
They say the only thing to fear is fear itself.That fateful morning, he found out otherwise.
Innocent blinked like an owl caught in sunlight as he woke up slowly. For some seconds he was completely disoriented, and then it all came back to him in a rush. The promotion…the congratulations…the surprise party…the Hennessey…
He was supposed to be at work. He sat up suddenly – and winced, grabbing his head. It felt as though three wraps of Mama Put fufu were resting on his brain.
As he staggered off the bed, a small jingling soundinsistently inserted itself into his consciousness. He stopped, wondering where it came from – before realizing that the sound too had stopped. It started again the moment he started to move again, and it sounded like it came from below him.
He looked down – and was surprised to see ‘grey’ where ‘brown’…or at least skin color was supposed to be.
He was still fully dressed in his work clothes from the day before. He groaned out loud. Which kain…
Wincing out loud as he felt another jab from the hot iron in his head, he started to pull off his clothes slowly, trying to remember exactly how drunk he had been the previous night. No be today I start to dey drink Henney na, he thought, roughly pulling the stripped tie from his neck. And why didn’t Henrietta wake me?He turned to the bed, intending to ask his wife just that. Her side of the bed was empty.
She wouldn’t be in bed at this time of the morning, he reasoned. But where she dey? Almost immediately, he heard the tinkling of water splashing from the bathroom and smiled. There she was.
He wrinkled his nose as he pulled off his soiled shirt, grimacing in distaste. He smelled as though he had taken a dip in Alomo Bitters and Ogidigba at once. This is…this is curious; he thought. I definitely did not drink this much.
Emptying his pockets of keys and phones and loose change and wallet and – he put everything on the table beside the bed. And then he took off his shoes and every last bit of clothing, dropped them among the small heap he’d created, and then swept the clothes towards the silent laundry basket that stood in one corner of the room. He was reaching for the towel hanging above it when singing broke out from the bathroom. His lips stretched in a smile that slowly became wider as he recognized what she was singing. Brymo’s Good Morning.
He reached for his toothbrush, distractedly noting that its head was looking frazzled. Shrugging, he slowly walked towards the bathroom, fingering the day-old fuzz of hair around his jaw. He didn’t need a shave. Not yet.
The bathroom door opened as he walked towards it and Henrietta appeared, wrapped in a pink towel and patting her face.
“Hey,” he said. “Why didn’t you wake me…”
The woman took one look at him and screamed.