When a movie like Don’t Breathe makes a grown man want to curl up in the fetal position, you know it’s a quality horror film.
Don’t Breathe is directed by Fede Alvarez who gave us 2013’s retelling of Evil Dead (Find it on Netflix). I remember being pleasantly surprised with that gory reimagining of a classic, and that sort of made me very curious about what Alvarez would do next.
This story isn’t complicated and starts out when three teen burglars – Alex (Dylan Minnette), Rocky (Jane Levy), and her boyfriend Money (Daniel Zovatto) — break into a home owned by a blind Iraq vet who lives in the Detroit projects.
Alex, who has a big time crush on Rocky, is a valuable part of the team thanks to his dad owning a security company. That gives Alex access to valuable intel on certain homes in the neighborhood that are easy targets with alarm systems that could be bypassed with one push of a button.
However, this time, it’s Money who has information on a blind war vet, played by a terrifying Stephen Lang (Avatar). Blind Man, as they call him, has a stash of $300,000 in cash from a court settlement he received after his daughter was killed by a reckless driver. Because the man lives alone in an area where he’s surrounded by abandoned homes, he becomes a prime target that’s ripe for the picking. It’s supposed to be an easy score.
Of course, this is a horror film so nothing is easy and best-laid plans go array fast. The three teens temporarily get past the guard dog and get inside the old dilapidated home. But they soon realize that Blind Man also has heightened hearing and smell that allows him to sense where his perpetrators are so that he can shoot first and ask questions later. In order to stay alive, the burglars have to sneak around the house and stay quiet or else they’re dead (thus why the film is called Don’t Breathe).
Alvarez and co-writer Rodo Sayagues hardly wrote any dialogue and instead focused on building tension by putting the characters in tight situations that even makes the viewer feel claustrophobic.
The film feels like a giant rollercoaster ride where at the beginning Alvarez uses a long and gorgeous tracking shot of the old home as if it’s the slow incline up the hill before you’re dropped down into terror.
The camera work is superb and I will even say that it’s some of the best cinematography you’ll see this year. That’s due to the great work of cinematographer Pedro Luque who does a marvellous job of filming long lasting continuous shots, along with some nice usage of drone cameras, and well-crafted night-vision scenes.
The entire film keeps you on the edge of your seat and reminded me of other horror films like Saw with a touch of Wes Craven’s People Under the Stairs. But this movie is original in its scope and it’s mission is to make you feel very uncomfortable.
This film is graphic, violent with some well-timed jump scares. There are twists, and turns with fake-outs that leave you on edge of your seat and muttering to yourself “why are you going into that room?!”
There are also a couple scenes added for shock value that was probably not needed but doesn’t necessarily take away from the film in any shape or form. But here’s your warning, those shock value scenes are gross and not for everyone.
Everything about this movie is well paced and nicely packaged within 90 minutes of pure intensity. But what really makes this horror flick come alive are the performances of Jane Levy, who also starred in Alvarez’s Evil Dead, alongside Stephen Lang, who is one of cinema’s under appreciated character actors.
Levy is so great as Rocky because, although she is a criminal, her intentions are to steal the money and move away to California with her young sister in hopes of getting away from their abusive family and start anew. Levy brings such natural ability and subtle intensity to her roles that make her perfect for the horror genre. She has found a home with director Alvarez.
Stephen Lang is brilliant as Blind Man and although many remember him for his bad guy role in Avatar, the man has been acting for a very long time and it’s great to see a thespian of his ilk get a juicy role like this.
Don’t Breathe is going to become a classic and people will be talking about this masterpiece for a long time. Fede Alvarez is creating a name for himself and is slowly becoming one of the best horror filmmakers of a new generation.
If you like the feeling of fear, anxiousness, and claustrophobia, this movie is for you. If you’re like me and you hate feeling all of those things, this movie is for you.
Don’t Breathe is the perfect title because you’ll be constantly holding your breath. It gets a 4 out of 5 from me. It’s not a perfect film, it’s rather quite simple, but damn is it fun and gorgeous to look at, even when you’re in the fetal position.