VOD film review: Don’t Breathe
Mike Williams | On 28, Jan 2017
Director: Fede Alvarez
Cast: Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto
If you’ve seen (and liked) Netlfix’s original horror, Hush, there’s a strong chance you’ll get something out of Fede Alvarez’s horror-thriller starring Avatar familiar Stephen Lang as a blind man who becomes the victim of a planned burglary at the hands of a trio of teens.
Just as Hush reworks the way it tells a horror narrative from a deaf person’s perspective and its focus on a lack of audio, Don’t Breathe cleverly uses the perspective of a blind character in how it makes audiences jump and the way it builds tension. This makes Don’t Breathe a particularly gripping and massively intense affair at times, especially when things don’t go to plan for the would-be crooks.
When Rocky (Levy) and Alex (Minnette) are persuaded to rob the home of a seemingly vulnerable OAP harbouring a valuable stash on his premises by Money (Zovatto), the gig seems straightforward. Going in, finding his fortune, and getting out unnoticed sounds simple, but these things never go as intended, especially when Lang’s character, known only as The Blind Man, turns out to be a raging psychopath.
What begins as a gang preying on an isolated man quickly – and rather brutally, it must be said – flips the premise on its head, leaving the youngsters trapped and creeping about in the hopes of staying alive. The shifting dynamics are a really interesting notion and work well, as the film builds and builds and builds towards its gripping finale. (Like a lot of horror movies, though, Don’t Breathe begins, for some unbeknown reason, with a scene from near the end. While this sometimes serves as an interesting bridge to show a means to an end, it doesn’t have any purposeful place here. In fact, all it does it reveal who’s left by the end of the third act and spoils the suspense of the journey a little.)
Lang does a solid job as the story’s antagonist, as we gradually learn snippets about him, his past, and just what he’s capable of. There is a particularly revealing scene that threatens to unhinge everything, sending the movie’s good elements into chaos, but the film just about manages to recompose itself ahead of its climax. Apart from the focus on sound, movement and the impact some visuals present, Don’t Breathe would otherwise be another run-of-the-mill genre film. Thankfully, director Alvarez is able to effectively incorporate its overall theme into the narrative and generate a number of moments and jumps that are unbearably tense.