DON’T BREATHE is a veritable masterclass in tense, taut filmmaking. The stakes are high right from the start, and the audience is plunged into a self-inflicted nightmare worthy of the modern horror hall of fame.
Although the plot is fairly simple — three young robbers plan to steal from a visually impaired man living by himself — it’s very effective in its script and execution. Rocky (Jane Levy, Evil Dead), Money (Daniel Zavatto, It Follows), and Alex (Dylan Minnette, Goosebumps) aren’t people you get to know overly well, but still you root for them and understand their motivations enough to want them to succeed in their law-breaking endeavour. Character development works surprisingly well given such a short space of time to initially set the scene, and it’s testament to the talented scriptwriters that they manage to pull it off so well. Without any audience attachment to the trio of thieves, this film wouldn’t work nearly as well as it does.
DON’T BREATHE is a film that I’d heard about but not really researched prior to seeing it, so I was pleasantly surprised by its ingenuity and plethora of twists and turns. While it doesn’t break any well-contoured moulds or cover new ground, it does try to shake up the horror-thriller genre by making the predominant antagonist blind. This allows for all kinds of surprises along the way, especially when a portion of the film sees the main characters shrouded in darkness. At one point I actually noticed I was biting my nails in anticipation of what was to come — that rarely happens these days, such is the life of a frequent horror viewer. Needless to say, I was impressed, and DON’T BREATHE is now happily sitting alongside the year’s best horror flicks.
Jane Levy, an actress I last saw in Suburgatory and the Evil Dead remake, does a great job of expressing terror, genuine fear, and sheer determination all at the same time. Her acting range really steps up a notch with this film, and I hope she continues exploring this genre in the future. Stephen Lang (Avatar) is utterly brilliant as the nameless Blind Man, and he easily steals the show. He’s a versatile actor to begin with, but this performance really cements that fact. He’s believable, chilling, and a force to be reckoned with, and there’s no fault to find with how he portrays a grieving, revenge-driven man with no sight and no real reason to get up in the morning. So, if you find you still need a good excuse to watch this film, Stephen Lang is it.
DON’T BREATHE is a film that needs to be seen, whether you’re a horror fan or not. It has echoes of You’re Next and Green Room, and it’s a lesson in how to do claustrophobic, enclosed thrillers very, very well. It’s one of the most enjoyable horror films I’ve seen so far this year, and I’ll never look at a turkey baster the same way again!