A fist-clenching 88 minutes.
Director Fede Alvarez jumped into the mainstream with his Evil Dead reboot in 2013. Loved by some, slated by many fans, it may not have been a perfect rebirth but it certainly made us aware of Alvarez. Staying within the horror genre, his latest effort with Don’t Breathe is a massive step forward.
When robbers Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) try to rob a home they believe contains a large sum of money, its occupant, a blind veteran, proves himself not to be as helpless as they thought.
From the outside, Don’t Breathe doesn’t break any new ground. At it’s core it’s a simple trapped-in-a-house flick, but watching it feels surprisingly fresh. The jump scares don’t feel cheap, and inventive sequences will keep your interest levels high. Alvarez’s direction, paired with the editing and sound design, masterfully creates a sense of dread that pretty much never stops. Every crack, creek and breath is so prominently heard, amping up the nerves accordingly.
The main trio are competent, but the star of the show is Stephen Lang as the blind man. You’ll remember Lang from Avatar, but his shattering performance here is the highlight of the film. He has a genuinely menacing screen presence, and for me personally, I routed for him despite the horrific events that take place.
This a film where there are few ‘bad guys’ – just a group of people who have made serious mistakes (other than that Money guy). This gives Don’t Breathe an edge not often scene in the genre. For example in The Strangers we had the masked, purely evil trio going for the innocent couple, as opposed to the complexity on offer here. It’s a twisty ride that rarely eases up on the thrills – prepare your jaw for a drop towards the end.
To sum it up…
Don’t Breathe is best seen going in without many preconceptions. Do that, and you’ll find yourself clinching your fists, holding your breath and generally enjoying one of the freshest films this year. If nothing else, it’s a lesson on perfecting suspense.
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Author: Cameron Frew