Never slow or relying on the dumb jump scare, this horror film is an excellent example of how to build and sustain tension. The entire run of the movie never lets up and makes for a watch where you feel like you don’t even have time to breathe.
Trio of house robbers; Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) decide to steal cash for a change from a house in an abandoned neighbourhood. The resident is Norman (Stephen Lang), a blind man who is an ex Army veteran sitting on at least $300’000 from a tragic past event. As they enter his home, Norman puts a halt to their plans and they end up locked in fighting to get out.
What is so brilliant about this film, is the masterful handling of tension used throughout. It’s not a horror that goes down the paranormal route, it has a couple of jump scares but well placed ones that work and more over it focuses on a simple but interesting story luring you into the plot so you become more involved in the stressful amount of tension.
You can tell it has that Sam Raimi production, the way that the characters face extreme odds and get painfully punished is similar to his works on ‘The Evil Dead’ and ‘Drag Me To Hell’. He certainly likes the fun of his characters getting put through the ringer like Alison Lohman did against her witchy menace. Fede Alvarez follows up his great Evil Dead remake of 2013 with another suspenseful, eerie film.
Alvarez lowers the flow of blood but the harsh battering, specifically Alex goes through helps show what a nasty predicament these guys are in. It makes it more real having less ridiculous amounts of blood and focusing instead on the back and forth survival between them and the blind yet strong, capable Norman. This villainous weakness makes him a good character as he’s not stupidly powerful and gives the film a perfect reasoning for a tense blackout. This scene in the basement is so effective, the music is rattling, the look is scary and grey and you feel every step, even better is that Alvarez doesn’t drag this scene out.
Jane Levy is a strong female lead, her resilience to keep going is admirable and she gets gifted the only backstory of the robbers ensuring you know to root for her 100%, she has a purpose and goal which she acts well. She also gets the brilliant moment with a baster that triumphs. Dylan Minnette, who I swear was Logan Lerman the entire time, is a good actor in this, showing fear but enough strength to come back and keep trying for a girl he’s clearly into. Stephen Lang is dominant and seems to tower over his captors and for a while the performance and film had me on his side, his loss of sight and backstory lead you down a path where it feels wrong what they do, but then Lang acts a menacing side as the truth comes to light.
This is a smart and super tense home invasion horror, that is filled with chills and pain. ‘Don’t Breathe’ just never lets go and gladly you won’t let go to the edge of your seat watching it.