Rocky, a young woman wanting to start a better life for her and her sister, agrees to take part in the robbery of a house owned by a wealthy blind man with her boyfriend Money and their friend Alex. But when the blind man turns out to be a more ruthless adversary than he seems, the group must find a way to escape his home before they become his newest victims.
Directed by Fede Alvarez and starring Jane Levy, Stephen Lang, Dylan Minnette and Danial Zovatto, Don’t Breathe is an American horror thriller film released on August 26, 2016.
Before I knew anything about the film I noticed its unassuming poster at the theatre. It caught my eye, but otherwise seemed to be generic horror movie fare. As can uncannily happen, however, soon afterwards I started to hear a lot of the buzz that the movie started generating. This got my butt into a theatre seat and I am very happy with how things turned out.
While easily earning its place in the horror genre, providing a great twist on home invasion stories, I found it to shine most brilliantly as a thriller. Though possessing a lot of disturbing content and horrific scenes, I didn’t find it to be particularly scary. However, it was a nerve-wracking affair of suspense and tension that had me perched at the edge of my seat nearly the entire time. This is thanks largely in part to the antagonist’s blindness. While not superhumanly keen in his other senses, he is sharp and skilled enough to be far more lethal than our thieves could have anticipated. This results in many great sequences where they are mere feet away from him and even a breath too loud could be a death sentence.
The setting is one of the most effective elements utilized in the film. Taking place in the more desolate areas of Detroit, the isolated location of the blind man’s home perfectly sets the stage for the events that unfold, as it believably establishes how there is no hope of refuge or interference from anywhere in the immediate area. It also helps to justify the motivations of our main characters who are plainly criminals, but are motivated by a desperation to escape their destitute situation in life — especially our protagonist Rocky.
It’s a simple set up, yet executed in a way that makes it something more. We come to know the interior of the house particularly well, and many small details are visually communicated to the audience, adding to the mounting tension by playing with our anticipation. Whether its a piece of glass stuck in someone’s shoe, a gun under a bed, or a tool that could make a likely weapon, many factors are made apparent without a word and pay off later on. There are also some small, yet disturbing implications that I noticed that are never clearly addressed, but once I noticed their meaning became unsettlingly clear.
I did have a small problem with how the movie started. We are presented with an aerial view that slowly zooms into a gruesome scene taking place, before jumping backwards in chronology. It isn’t until the third act that we return to this point. While not poorly shot and it is a technique commonly used to foreshadow things to come, I would have preferred a more straightforward approach to the narrative. It’s a simple concept with strong execution, and this sequence interferes a little with the suspense by giving the audience a future point of reference. It’s a small portion of the film, but I think it still should have been kept simpler.
Small criticisms aside, Don’t Breathe is a fantastic horror thriller, full of intense moments and horrifying twists. The film efficiently utilizes its claustrophobic setting, allowing the audience to get familiar with surroundings and anxiously anticipate what could happen next. It’s a nonstop nail-biter with far darker turns than I was expecting that any horror fan owes it to themselves to go see.