Sometimes, pure silence is the testament to the effectiveness of a horror movie. I’ve read some good reviews about Evil Dead director Fede Alvarez’s Don’t Breathe, but I was totally unprepared for the sheer suspense that would grip me for the entire 88 minute run of the film.
Alex (Dylan Minette), Rocky (Jane Levy) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) are three thieves who prey on clients of Alex’s father’s security company. Their MO is simple. Don’t take too much money and don’t get caught. When Money proposes to hit the home of a blind war vet (Stephen Lang) to rob him of a huge settlement that the court granted him for the accidental death of his daughter, the trio get more than they bargained for when the victim fights back and defends him home from the interlopers.
I was really surprised when I first watched the trailer of the movie when it seemed to give away the entire plot of the film. The trailer already gave away one death so I was only prepared to see how the cat and mouse game between the supposed victim and his tormentors will unfold when the tables are turned. As it turned out, the trailer was just the tip of the iceberg.
Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead (which incidentally also stars Jane Levy) served up horror in a gory, artsy and edgy style, but Don’t Breathe is a whole different animal. Like plotting a murder, it is premeditated and each scene is crafted to intensify the impact of the next one. It doesn’t go for cheap thrills. It goes straight for the jugular. Its totally hard core.
The darkness serves as Alvarez’s tool to further scare the living daylights out of his audience as the blind dude pursues Alex and Rocky with a determination and purpose that will put any bounty hunter to shame. What I liked about the chase was that Stephen Lang’s character, while he obviously had the advantage of navigating through the darkness, was not portrayed as a superhuman. Sure, he was badass but he wasn’t like the Daredevil or anything like that. He was just a guy who had military training, defending his home and his secrets from interlopers who dared to violate his sanctuary.
For me, the strength of this film lies in the fact that there were only a few characters. While they seemed to be reincarnations of other stereotype characters before them (the brains, the muscle, the leading lady), they stepped away from the box because they seemed like genuine people who were going through their own issues.
Because of this, Alvarez had time to set up their background and get audiences to identify with them even before the action starts. And because the characters were so relatable (my favorite is Alex because he’s the only smart person in the bunch), viewers feel compelled to root for them. Its either you’re Team Blind Guy or Team Intruders but most definitely, audiences would feel a kinship with the characters so they are invested in what happens to them throughout the course of the movie.
When Alex utters the words Don’t Breathe, I could literally hear a pin drop in the theater. Everyone was so quiet and its like they felt too that they were in the house with Rocky and Alex in the very same predicament. Its better than 3D, I tell you. This could well be a survival horror video game.
All in all, while I felt that some of the characters deserved a better ending, I was completely hooked by Don’t Breathe from beginning to end. I loved every moment, even though I felt like I was about to pee with terror the entire time. It was a master class in horror. Moral of the story, Never mess with Stephen Lang, whether he’s playing Col. Miles Quatrich or a blind guy, he will kick your ass.