After the terrific reimagining (it’s not a remake!) of Evil Dead (2013), Fede Alvarez is back with Don’t Breathe, a claustrophobic, edge of your seat thriller in which, you quickly realise, you should never judge a book by it’s cover.
I have been cautious of blind people ever since 1998 when the man, who I believed to be the “local blind guy,” gave me the fingers from his window as I sat across the street. It turned out that he wasn’t blind at all and I had totally confused myself, but the wary caution still exists! Don’t Breathe kicks off with a wide shot of a run down, neglected street in Michigan. As the camera slowly pans in, we see a foreboding figure of a man slowly make his way along the road, dragging a young girl behind him, beaten and terror stricken. It acts as a little precursor, readying the audience for the possible brutality that lies ahead and it works beautifully. Bringing us back to the present day, we’re introduced to three mid-twenties kids as they break into a well furnished, wealthy home. Rocky, played excellently by Jane Levy (Evil Dead), Alex (Dylan Minnette – Goosebumps) and Money (Daniel Zovatto – It Follows) are petty thieves, stealing from homes which fall under the surveillance of Alex’s father’s security firm. After a tip off, promising a substantial sum of money, the trio decide to break into the home of a blind (really blind, not like the guy in 1998) Gulf War veteran, played by Stephen Lang (Avatar) in a shining performance that I believe may be the best of his long career. Rocky, Alex and Money soon learn that the job isn’t going to be as easy as it initially seemed when the blind prey quickly becomes predator.
You’ve all heard the rhyme “Three Blind Mice,” well Alvarez turns it on it’s head, pitting the three well-sighted mice against the bigger, stronger (albeit blind) cat in a tense, gripping and often brutal game of cat and mouse. With 90% of the film taking place inside a dimly lit, locked house, with almost zero ways of escape, Don’t Breathe manages to feel very claustrophobic at times, excellently adding to the ever building tension of the audience as they try and cling on to any shred of hope that some good will, surely, come out of the situation they are bearing witness to.
Don’t Breathe has it’s fair share of jump scares, some which may be seen as a little on the cheap side and some of which are executed perfectly. However, the sound production is really where this film shines. Lengthy periods of silence, with the occasional atmospheric drone is a refreshing approach in modern horror and allows the film to avoid the tired cliché of eerie music playing as a scare looms, obviously, closer. Also, as the Gulf War veteran is totally without sight, the silence illustrates that his other senses are heightened, having him (and the audience) listen out for even the slightest sound of breathing creates a new level of danger for the prey. Perhaps their biggest danger, however, is that they all have Samsung phones. That shit is definitely going to catch fire when they least expect it!
With stellar performances from Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette and Stephen Lang, Don’t Breathe is a highlight of horror cinema this year. It’s clever, twisted and is sure to have even the sternest horror hound getting a little white around the knuckles. Fede Alvarez has shown again that, although he is still relatively new to the Director’s chair, he has the ability to give us something refreshing and brutal each time. Unlike our antagonist, I await Alvarez’s next project with eager eyes.