Don’t Breathe, 2016.
Directed by Fede Alvarez.
Starring Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, and Daniel Zovatto.
Hoping to walk away with a massive fortune, a trio of thieves break into the house of a blind man who isn’t as helpless as he seems.
2016 has been a great year for horror so far. We’ve enjoyed The Conjuring 2, The Witch, and 10 Cloverfield Lane and now we can add Don’t Breathe to the list of great horror thrillers.
A trio of disillusioned teenagers in Detroit (Levy, Minette and Zovatto) spend their time breaking into houses, making sure they never take enough to commit grand larceny. When the opportunity for a score of $300k comes up, the trio sneak into the house of a blind army vent (Lang), not realising that he’s more dangerous than they could ever imagine.
Don’t Breathe doesn’t do anything new in terms of character creation. Money (Zovatto) is a gangster wannabe, Alex (Minnette) wants to hang with the cool kids and Rocky (Levy) wants to escape the horrible home life she has. We’ve seen these kids a million times on film, but for the plot of Don’t Breathe it fits perfectly. It’s difficult to feel bad for kids who have no qualms about stealing from a blind guy, but by the end of the film you really don’t feel bad for them.
Stephen Lang as the “Blind Man” delivers a tremendous performance. He’s physically imposing, terrifying, twisted and a constant threat. Watching the film he reminded me of Michael Myers, he moves around effortlessly with a combination of grace and intimidation. When the film twists and we find out how much of a threat the blind man is to the teenagers it is horrifying to watch.
Alvarez’s direction is superb and makes Don’t Breathe a taut thriller. Roughly 90% of the film takes place over the three floors of the blind man’s house. The camera swings through rooms and moves between the floorboards and walls, making the sense of claustrophobia intense and unyielding. By having such limited space to work with, the film’s plot is propelled forwards at lightning speed and it’s all the better for it. There is danger around every corner for our anti-heroes. One phenomenal sequence comes part way through the film where the blind man turns off the lights in the basement and two of the teens have to scramble in the dark. Harking back to Silence of the Lambs, it’s a quiet and unnerving sequence.
Instead of relying on jump scares, Alvarez makes the threat constant and with such a short run time, there’s no room for the tension to be released. The teens move as silently as possible throughout the house and any creaks from floorboards or short intakes of breath are heard by the blind man. It feels at times like a well choreographed dance as the teens move throughout the house, dodging the path of the blind man.
Whilst the finale leaves an option for a sequel and I thought this film was superb, I hope that this doesn’t become another film to get an unnecessary sequel. It’s a perfectly cocooned thriller, masterfully directed and executed to perfection.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★