“Don’t Breathe” Movie Review
The world first took notice of Fede Alvarez in 2013 with Evil Dead. The film was a re-imagined fourth installment of a beloved franchise, and while Alvarez cleverly honored the style of the horror series, he made it his own. It was well-written, nicely shot, smoothly paced and deliciously thrilling. Needless to say, it’s one of the best remakes/reboots I’ve ever seen. Since then I’ve been sure to keep an eye out for Alvarez and see what else he was capable of.
Don’t Breathe is the newest horror movie from Ghost House Pictures and Ghost Universe. It’s directed by Alvarez and written by him and Rodo Sayagues. The film stars Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, and Daniel Zovatto as a trio of teenage burglars who’ve chosen their next target: an elderly blind man (Stephen Lang) who’s rumored to be keeping a large inheritance in his house. Eager to snag the cash and get out of town, they break into the old home, thinking the man won’t be a problem. But it’s easier said than done. The three are soon cornered by the blind man, whose sharp hearing has made up for his lack of vision- and he’s not letting them go without a fight.
I absolutely adored Don’t Breathe. I’ll go so far as to say that it’s one of the best horror movies I’ve seen this year. The best aspect of this movie lies in its simplicity. As the level of horror escalates throughout the film, there’s never a point where the situation feels unbelievable. Even when it surprises you with truly disturbing twists and turns, it never goes too extreme (like if the old man turned out to be a vampire or a secret assassin or something). Alvarez maintains a gritty realism. It’s just a group of teens, an old man, and dark house. That’s it. That’s all you need.
Speaking of believability, the characters themselves feel less like horror tropes and more like actual people. They’re not the most sympathetic, but there’s enough humanity to where you want to see them make it out okay. They’re not complete morons whose stupid actions make things worse, but you understand that they’re trapped in an unfamiliar place. Levy, Minnette, and Zovatto are great during dramatic moments, and when things get scary, they look genuinely terrified. But the stand-out to me is Stephen Lang as the blind man. He’s an ominous presence, shown through his physicality, the way he walks, the way he stares, the way he speaks with a crackling voice. He’s a terrifying figure, but at the same time, he’s not an impassive monster like Michael Meyers or Jason Voorhees. The blind is man is a person, portrayed as a human being as emotional as the main leads.
Don’t Breathe is one of those gems that sucks you in to the world of the film. From the moment the characters enter that house, you feel like you’re stuck in there with them. The fluid camera movements, the shot set-ups, and use of shadows build a dark, tense atmosphere. If I had to nitpick, I’ll say that Minnette’s character’s motivation for being burglar is a little unclear. I got hunch about why he was doing it, but it could’ve come across stronger. Also, the very last scene of the movie felt a little tacked on. It wasn’t bad or anything, but it wasn’t needed. Nonetheless, I was thoroughly impressed with Don’t Breathe. It’s a small scale horror that’s also a damn fun time at the theater.
Cosmic Grade: 4.75/5 stars