Every once and a while a film comes along and injects new life into a genre and it’s safe to say that Don’t Breathe is easily one of the best horror films this side of the millennium.
The premise is simple, three young robbers break into a house in what seems to be an easy haul, due to the fact that the only resident is an old blind man. On paper it sounds very cut and dry, but what lies beneath and continually unfolds becomes an unrelenting nightmare in tension and terror. Just like the characters, the less you know going in, the better, which is one reason this film works so well.
Another reason is that it makes you take sides with the robbers when you probably shouldn’t. If you’re knowingly breaking into the house of an old blind man, wouldn’t you deserve what’s coming to you? A small set up at the start justifies their actions (mainly leading lady Rocky), thus we actually care whether they live or die. A rarity in horror movies.
The performances all round are solid. Jane Levy who plays Rocky is proving to be quite the break-out star. It should be noted that this movie is helmed by Fede Alvarez, who remade the Evil Dead movie that Levy also starred in. Whether you’re a dedicated fan of the original Evil Dead or not, it was a great horror film in its own right in which Levy also gave a strong performance. What she brings is such a raw vulnerability that is rarely seen on screen these days. Her male counterpart is also worth mentioning, Alex played by Dylan Minette. Refreshingly, he is a normal guy put into an extraordinary situation, who is merely trying to survive and protect Rocky at the same time. After appearing in strong supporting roles in films like Let Me In and Prisoners, he is also a talent to watch.
The stand-out performance in Don’t Breathe belongs to Stephen Lang as the old blind man (his name is never revealed). A cinema buff’s eye will recognise him as the villain from Avatar, but he is a whole other kind of bad here. Or is he? Yes, well… Maybe. The only information you need to know about his character is that he’s a war veteran who lives alone, the rest will be revealed as the movie progresses.
The real star however is director Fede Alvarez. For a movie that’s mainly set in one location, he milks every bit of tension out of the small space. Once inside the house, you will never feel safe. The basement scene alone is enough to make your palms sweaty. It would be a little presumptuous to say that he’s a modern day Hitchcock, but what he pulls off in Don’t Breathe is undeniably one of the scariest experiences you will have even if you’re a hard-core horror fan.
In what only can be recommended as one of the best horror movies to come along in a while, it’s best to go in with as little information as possible, only so you enjoy the thrill-ride and surprises it has in store.
Stephen Lang wore contact lenses that greatly restricted his vision, particularly in low light; the other actors, in the scene taking place in the dark, wore lenses that made them look like they had dilated pupils but also greatly restricted their vision.