Director: Fede Alvarez
Starring: Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, Emma Bercovici
Written by: Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues
Running Time: 88 mins
Release date: 9th September 2016
The last time director Fede Alvarez helmed a movie, it was the reboot of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead, a film that I was surprised actually worked. Alvarez has said about his latest film, Don’t Breathe, was that he wanted to make an original, stripped-back horror on a shoestring budget. While it might not be the most original premise, it is a nail-biting, sometimes brutal horror thriller that, even though has one moment that is a huge error of judgment, is an incredibly gripping movie.
Three petty burglars discover a blind war veteran, living on a deserted street, who may have a stash of money in his home from a payout after his daughter was killed in a road accident. Entering the house, they think it’s going to be easy to find the money and just leave. What they don’t expect is the owner uses his other senses to full effect and that they will become pawns in a deadly game of cat and mouse.
To give too much away about the plot is to spoil the suspense. Managing to keep the cast small and using a setting of an old house at night, Alvarez goes down the route of having a blind man initially as the victim but turning the tables pretty quickly. What Alvarez does do well is give the characters backstory that affects their decisions.
Once the youngsters enter the house, it soon becomes a no-holds bar living nightmare. Darkness is used effectively to create tension. A sequence in which we see things through a grey night vision effect is both unbelievably gripping and quite disturbing. Alvarez uses flashes of utter brutality while cleverly building on what is happening next. Everything happens for a reason. This is not a horror film in which events occur just for effect.
So as the shocks, occasional acts of violence and brutality build, you become more and more immersed, wondering if anyone will come out of this alive. At this point, this was heading down the route of a 5 out of 5 movie. Then a scene that is so repulsive and unnecessary occurs that, for me, sadly spoilt it. Once that moment is over, it goes back to the level of inventiveness that the rest of the film had been giving us.
Performance-wise, everyone in the small cast delivers. Jane Levy makes for an impressive female lead, with enough guts and determination while at the same time bringing a human element to her character. Yet it is Stephen Lang’s Blind Man who impresses. His towering presence brings an air of pure terror to the proceedings.
If you like your films as tense as they can be, then go see Don’t Breathe but be prepared to feel slightly disappointed that Alvarez lets the film become gross instead of terrifying. Apart from that wrong-footing, this is a decent horror shocker.