Director: Fede Alvarez
Stars: Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette
You won’t be able to!
Being a horror fanatic, I’d been in the know about Don’t Breathe for months before the trailer had even come out. It had premiered at some weird festival and started generating a lot of hype. “The best horror movie in decades!” You know that sort of thing which people seem to say about every good horror movie coming out. So I’d been excited about it and I was also a fan of Fede Alvarez’s fun Evil Dead remake. I avoided any trailers and tried to put aside the general hype after being disappointed with Green Room earlier in the year and just went in with the mindset that this was going to be an above average horror film. I needn’t have worried because Don’t Breathe totally lives up to the hype.
Don’t Breathe is exactly the kind of horror film I love. Intense, thrilling and relentless. It’s set mainly in one location and follows three young tea leafs robbing an elderly blind man. Fede does a great job of crucially making us care for these criminals, or at least one of them. Jane Levy is the girl you’ll be rooting for here and we’re given a lovely bit of context which outlines her desperate situation so that our sympathies lie with her. It takes just enough time to build the characters and the plot so that we care about the rest of the film.
Once the kids step into the little old house the film really begins and I was left holding my breath until the very end. At first I was a little concerned as I couldn’t see how the filmmakers could spread robbing a blind OAP into a 90 minute film. I mean, he’s blind, how hard can it blummin’ be? It turns out very. This isn’t just any old blind man, this is an ex soldier with ears like a bat who’s still equipped with the skills to beat any grown man to a pulp. He’s a character who you’ll go away remembering thanks to Stephen Lang’s dominant presence as well as the character’s dark backstory which is best left unrevealed.
Don’t Breathe spends most of its running time squeezing every last bit of suspense it can. It reminded me a bit of the French horror, Inside, although of course far less extreme. Just in the sense that it’s an absolute roller coaster despite being confined to one location and a few characters. It’s a really intense film and at times I was left covering my mouth just in case I made a noise which the blind man could hear. All of the tension comes from Fede Alvarez’s superb directing skills though. We’re given long and still takes instead of quick shaky edits so you can see what’s happening on screen. The use of silence is particularly key in creating tension though and the effect is used to its absolute best here.
Whilst the film isn’t the most original, it still feels fresh and unpredictable thanks to the superb high level of quality across all departments. The directing is masterful, the writing is taut, the music is effective, the acting is good for the most part, although the young Tom Cruise lookalike was a little wooden at times. The film also offers some deliciously dark ideas which I’ve never seen explored before in a horror film. So whilst we’ve seen this kind of scenario before (Livid has exactly the same premise) Don’t Breathe still proves itself to be one of the very best of its kind.
To say any more about Don’t Breathe would be to spoil the nail-biting twists and turns in store. All you need to know is that it’s a relentlessly intense experience which never gives you a chance to breathe. It looks like Fede will have a long and promising career in horror, as with only two films under his belt, he has proven that he has the skills to create some of the best horror films that Hollywood has to offer. And let’s just take a moment to appreciate all the fantastic horror films 2016 has had to offer. In any other year, Don’t Breathe would’ve been my number one but with films like: The Conjuring 2, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Witch (my personal favourite of the year so far) and the upcoming Blair Witch, we’ve been treated to a surge of seriously high quality horror. Don’t Breathe can still sit proudly among them though. It’s a taut, adrenaline-fuelled ride which I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying.