Is 2016 the year of assaulting the five senses? It seems the latest trend is to dramatically rid a character of one of the five senses. First there was sound, now sight, what next…?
Thinking it will be an easy snatch, a trio of young Detroit thieves break into the house of a blind man after they find out a large sum of money is on the property, only to discover the man isn’t as helpless as he seems.
Don’t Breathe is a welcome addition to the home invasion genre, but with an added fresh twist. Following up from his 2013 debut, Evil Dead, Fede Alvarez easily verifies that he is a force to be recognised with in the genre making it hard to believe that this is only his second feature.
The murky teals and tangerines are stylishly shown as the camera effectively prowls between characters as The Blind Man stalks them from room to room. It expertly illustrates long tracking shots, similar to David Fincher’s Panic Room, Alvarez uses the camera to twist and turn through hallways and floorboards in one fluid movement. A particular standout is the basement scene, with The Blind Man forcing our bandit criminals to scramble around helplessly in the dark. The scene is beautifully crafted and handled elegantly, Alvarez avoids the overused cliché of black and green night vision and opts for a muted greyscale world.
The sound design for Don’t Breathe is strikingly impressive, in moments of tension the sound is completely dropped and in those minutes of silence, I found myself holding my breath along with the characters, listening to every crack and creak of the house. You would have been able to hear a pin drop in the cinema, it was frankly captivating. Much respect goes towards Alvarez for embracing the simplicity of silence, proving to all that the minimalistic approach is horrifically more effective.
It’s hard to fault Don’t Breathe, but it has its moments. The film does take an unnecessarily steer into gross out territory in the final act, what was once a tense edge of your seat thriller quickly turns into a squirming in your seat whilst awkwardly laughing thriller. As well, with limited dialogue the characters are difficult to connect with as we aren’t given a whole lot of backstory. However, even with a near silent performance Stephen Lang makes for a terrific villain as The Blind Man, he is an incredibly imposing figure of dominance.
Don’t Breathe is a breathless and visceral experience. It is satisfyingly tense and avoids falling into the trap of repeating the same scare over and over. The clever scares of Don’t Breathe come from the mere threat of violence, rather than actual violence. Alvarez has crafted an intense, relentless thriller with an original plot and effective scares.
8.5 / 10
“Just because he’s blind doesn’t mean he’s a saint, bro”