When three burglars think they can take their chances with a blind veteran, who was paid off after his daughter was mowed down, they soon realise that this old man is a bigger threat than they could’ve imagined when they get trapped in his house.
From Fede Alvarez, the director of 2013’s Evil Dead remake, ‘Don’t Breathe’ is a creepy, tense and wince-inducing movie that almost pushes the boundaries of bad taste, but, in the end, wastes no time in giving us one of the better horror movies of the year.
Trouble is it’s one of those films that will get people talking about it in the wrong way. One of the bad points of the film, something that kept me from rating it higher was a scene towards the end that really indulged in a horrible cinematic cliche to do with sexual violence towards women.
The moment doesn’t go all the way thankfully, but just the implication is enough to make you sigh and say “Oh really”. At this point, I did feel a little annoyed, the film had been fantastic up until that moment but it almost ruined it with such a grotesque idea.
However, I don’t think the film should be demonised for it, it’s a particularly nasty moment in a movie that wanted to push things as much as it could, but it survives by the skin of its teeth because it continues to ramp up the other type of violence from that point on.
When I tend to rate films I start at the top with ten and remove a point for everything thing I didn’t think was great. This scene marked the film down one for me and the final third, which had too many endings and just when you thought it was going to end it didn’t, also marked the film down.
Yet, apart from these two points, one big and one small, I loved the film. From the opening I was engaged and entertained, I cared about the characters and I wanted them to get out of the house alive.
Alvarez does a fantastic job of building tension in the house, using a stripped down visual aesthetic to draw focus to the film’s soundscape. The exquisite use of music from Roque Banos works like a heartbeat in the background and the sound mixing of creaking floorboards and stifled breathing sucks all of the air out your body.
The title is apt because I don’t think I breathed once.
The performances are great. Jane Levy and Dylan Minnette make you root for them and I bought the emotional backstory and reasoning for Levys’ Rocky.
However, it’s the central visually impaired performance by Stephen Lang as the blind man which steals the show as he stalks silently through the house, getting one up on his housebreakers/hostages over the course of the film.
It’s a game of cat and mouse and every breath, every step leaves you rooted in your seat, unable to move your eyes from the screen.
Thankfully this isn’t a film that deals only in jumpscares as atmosphere and tension are turned up to eleven and even in some cases there are scenes that send the pulse racing, particularly with the inclusion of a particularly vicious Cujo type guard dog.
In the end, I loved it. I’m a big horror fan and I loved how it built itself up and managed to move the characters through the house in organic ways. Despite the controversial ending, which I really wished hadn’t been there and one too many endings, I loved the stripped down and brutally tense atmosphere that ‘Don’t Breathe’ unleashed on me.