Director: Fede Alvarez
Starring: Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto
Studio: Sony Pictures
With a gripping intensity fluctuating throughout its entire duration, Don’t Breathe is one of the most terrifying modern thrillers of recent years. With excellent set pieces, brilliantly choreographed camera movements, and a career defining performance by Stephen Lang, Don’t Breathe manages to escalate its premise into one that could define all future horror productions.
The film is direct in its premise, following three down-on-their-life-luck youths while they break into a blind pensioners (Lang) house to steal his six figure fortune. A poor decision in hindsight when the trio are welcomed by one of cinemas most frightening creations, who quickly decides to take justice into his own hands and pick them off one by one. Using his lack of sight as a strength in capturing these burglars, the blind man turns of the lights and hunts them in the dark. Through having the main antagonist of this thriller/horror as a blind person gives Don’t Breathe a unnerving quality that resonates throughout the entire picture.
With the locale and sense of danger bringing about a horrific atmosphere that grips from start to finish, Fede Alvarez and his creative team are able to play with various components of the horror genre and manipulate the audience into sensing the danger of the situation at hand. Like the characters who stumble into this most dangerous of situations, the audience is never privy to understanding the characteristics of the blind man, his motives and capabilities. This means that every action that occurs onscreen brings its own level of shock-value to the film, and therefore creates a level of dread in near on every sequence as it plays out.
Although the whole film capsulated the emotion derived from threat, certain points within the narrative play it out fully – allowing the moment to further engross the viewer into the exploits of its principle characters. One such sequence involves a character as he is held perilously above Lang’s murderer, with only a single pain of glass halting his demise. With the glass slowly cracking (in a similar way to the cliff sequence in Spielberg’s Lost World), Alvarez allows the shot to just sit there and absorb the tension as it fully develops onscreen. Through decisions such as this, Don’t Breathe becomes absorbed in its own tension, heightening the sheer power of consequence given to each character as they desperately attempt to survive.
Being a smart horror film does not relinquish the film of faults however, with Don’t Breathe suffering from similar issues that are present within this particular genre. For one, the characters are never fully defined or given space to develop. With each of the four principle cast only serving as a manipulation of the narrative to keep it moving forward, Don’t Breathe struggles to define itself entirely. This means that instead of being fully realised, the characters are instead given stereotypical qualities that differentiate themselves from one another. The egotistical leader, the abused trying-to-better themselves second, and the morally strong – but in love – follower, are all present within the trio of burglars and this disappoints.
Its not that each character doesn’t bring a specific quality to the film, but instead that it comes of a lazy film decision that really detracts from the overall quality on show. With a little more care given to the characters that feature, Don’t Breathe could have become a deep and meaningful horror production. Instead the film feels frightening to its core (and this fact can not go understated), but shallow in its own personality.
Plot – 4
Acting – 3
Direction – 3
Retrospect – 2
Overall – 3