Far too often do we roll our eyes whenever we hear a new horror/thriller has come out. After all, the majority of today’s horror genre is stuffed with clichés and cheap jump-scares. How can they even compete with classic films that have set our standards high, such as The Shining or The Exorcist? And with the best ideas already used up, will we ever be able to break out of this cycle?
Directed by Fede Alvarez, (Hi, Evil Dead!), Don’t Breathe revolves around Rocky, Alex, and Money (Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto), three Detroit teenagers who get their kicks by robbing the houses of wealthy people. Word gets around that due to a cash settlement in regards to the death of his only child, a blind veteran (Stephen Lang) is now sitting on a large sum of cash. Hoping to snag the money, (each for their own, personal gain), the trio set eyes on their target: a secluded home in an abandoned neighborhood. But their operation can only go so far when the three end up trapped inside the man’s house upon discovering a shocking revelation about their supposed victim.
Firstly, you can stop holding your breath because most of the characters in this film don’t make completely stupid decisions a normal human being wouldn’t. Sure, the characters are prone to mistakes, but at least they’re not too stupid/clichéd—which is definitely a good thing.
As for the story, the plot itself is a clever concept—and it’s well executed. Alvarez doesn’t spend time dawdling on unimportant details, character histories, etc. He jumps right into it and only includes what is needed. Furthermore, it is perfectly paced so the audience won’t begin to roll their eyes during slow scenes, (if they existed in the film.) Many movies struggle with this; they have an interesting concept but unfortunately ruin it with a dull story-line.
Cinematography was successful in giving the audience a claustrophobic feel, (along with Don’t Breathe’s characters), via its contrasting use of light and dark shots. It also adds to the tension and suspense of the scene as the character fumbles through the quiet darkness.
The editing department did a great job in cutting scenes so that various twists distributed throughout the film keep us wondering—to one point where you just don’t know any more who ends up dying and if anyone ends up living.
What distinguishes this film from other horrors and thrillers is its morally ambiguous compass. Everyone included in the film is selfish, greedy, and terrible to an extent. So who are we supposed to root for? The trio that shouldn’t have been robbing innocent people in the first place? Or the man who’s simply standing his ground? Don’t Breathe prompts its audience to think on a deeper level in contrast to the mere purpose of entertainment.
As with every film, Don’t Breathe could’ve improved in a few aspects. One are a few, (somewhat ridiculous), plot-holes. Another: a few cheap jump-scares. And one last aspect: one of the twists isn’t too surprising, as it is predictable to an extent. Luckily for us though, the gripping pace of the plot enables the audience to overlook them—it’s all the thrill of the chase and getting out.
All in all, Don’t Breathe was one of the few films released in which we can say, “Ah, now that’s one worth mentioning.” With the acting talents of Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, and Stephen Lang, the cast is able to breathe life into this exciting thriller. As for Alvarez? Fede Alvarez has done a job well done in creating the perfect icing for the perfect cake.
Running Time: 1 hour, 28 minutes
Final Verdict: B+