Don't Breathe

Movie Review:  Don’t Breathe
 
Some films have absolutely brilliant moments in otherwise pedestrian experiences.  Don’t Breathe has moments that make it rise above a typical horror film.  Silence is the greatest weapon in Director/Co-Writer Fede Alvarez’s arsenal and he wields it brilliantly.  However, it can’t help but fall into some tired horror cliches and missteps in character portrayals.
Don’t Breathe follows Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette), and Money (Daniel Zovatto) as they rob a house in a nearly deserted Detroit neighborhood.  The man who lives there, simply known as the The Blind Man (Stephen Lang), is supposedly sitting on a massive cash settlement that could give the thieves the score of a lifetime.  But The Blind Man turns the tables on them, hunting them down one by one.
Alvarez, best known to mainstream audiences for The Evil Dead remake, builds up the tension perfectly by using silence.  The score is virtually absent from the moment the thieves start their heist.  Alvarez’s camera creeps in and out of the halls of the house as we discover The Blind Man’s dark home along with the thieves.
At first, the thieves use this silence to get an advantage over The Blind Man.  But it becomes their only hiding place as the Blind Man relentlessly hunts them down.  Loud noises, such as gunshots, slamming doors or The Blind Man’s running feet, are jarring due to the silence that permeates the film.
The stand out sequence in Don’t Breathe takes place in the Blind Man’s basement.  All the sound completely cuts out as the characters are plunged into the darkness that The Blind Man lives in.  There are jump scares during this sequence, but they never feel cheap or unnecessary.  When a killer grabs you in the darkness, I’m pretty sure you would jump too.
However, after this point Don’t Breathe plunges into more a more typical horror trope:  Too many conclusions.  There is a plot turn late that is truly twisted and shocking, but it gets lost in the film’s false endings.  To elaborate further would mean going into spoiler territory, but it’s stuff that has been done before in other horror films.
All of the actors are pretty solid in Don’t Breathe.  Jane Levy is a truly sympathetic heroine, doing the heist to get enough money to get her daughter out of run down Detroit.  And she balances the character’s utter terror with a drive to survive very well.  However, Rocky is given a back story involving a lady bug that virtually plays no part in the film after it’s mentioned.  The film tries to shoe horn this aspect into the conclusion, but it doesn’t work.
Daniel Zovatto acts the hell out of his screen time to the point of distraction.  Money is so much of a stereotypical jerk that it’s hard to believe someone like Rocky would be with him.  On the other hand, Dylan Minnette does the best work in the film as the conflicted Alex.  He seems to only be in this heist to help Rocky, giving him a bit of nobility.  Minnette brings likability and toughness to the role.
Stephen Lang’s exudes menace throughout as The Blind Man and makes for an intimidating presence.  Which is made even more impressive given Lang barely says a word when we first see him.  From his strained angry face to his intimidating, confident strides, Lang portrays the Blind Man as a ruthless machine.
The Blind Man is more of a movie monster than a slasher killer.  Don’t Breathe’s Detroit setting is used well here.  It’s portrayed as a place where good people are driven to do bad things in order to survive.  The Blind Man is the extreme of this.  He starts as sympathetic but has slowly become a monster.  That makes him incredibly scary.
If Don’t Breathe didn’t plunge into cliche towards the end, it would have been a nearly perfect thriller.  It’s definitely worth checking out for any hardcore horror or thriller fan.  And I am definitely looking forward to what Fede Alvarez does next.
Score:  7.5 out of 10