It has become unfortunate that horror movies have created their own stigma as films that fall into the cliché cringe category. It could easily be said that is the trend of many films, but you watch an American horror movie and you know what’s going to happen – group of people splits up, one by one each meet a final doom and an empowered female with a gender neutral name survives.
Don’t Breathe – a movie that takes those tropes and then smashes them into a thousand tiny pieces, sticks them back together in a perfectly suspense soaked sequence and then presents us with something that still essentially follows a certain formula enough for a studio to want to produce it, but hits hard with the qualities of an indie horror, takes risks and delivers a tightly directed film that will have you (I’m sorry for this). . . holding your breath till the final frame.
Three criminal teens target a big house with lots of convenient hiding space upon discovering the owner has a large payout from the wrongful death of his daughter. When Money (Daniel Zovatto) brings a gun along for the ride, the responsible and level headed Alex (Dylan Minnette) decides to leave the house. Rocky (Jane Levy) knows the whole thing is taking a turn for the obvious worse, but in need of the money sticks around. Finding that the owner is blind, they think they’ve hit the jackpot, that is until they discover the limit someone who has lost everything will go to in order to protect what is his, as the owner not only fights back, but indulges in his right as an American to commit justifiable homicide. Along the way we discover that he himself is holding a twisted secret, locked away behind a wall of secrecy (and clues dropped throughout the movie) that will leave you feeling kind of
What’s great about this movie is that it follows a somewhat familiar narrative, but has taken a risk in not falling into the familiar traps that many American horror movies do; less blood and gore and more grounded, human physicality, less focus on the 'something’s about to happen . .' soundtrack and more silence, building suspense and creating a truly frightening atmosphere. The great care taken in putting you in the skin of the main characters and making you feel as trapped as they are has elevated a simple horror film into a memorable film period. Tight close-ups in dark corners still slickly shot with enough light to see what’s going on will have you stomach nagging you for downing a whole bowl of popcorn when the feeling of dread tries to stuff its way in there too.
And whilst the trailer gave away the innovative pitch black scene, the intensity of the film being shot without much dialogue as each character holds their breath from the heightened senses of the bloodthirsty homeowner’s sharp hearing has you holding your breath along with them (just to see if you could do it or not, as you do).
So I recommend this to horror fans and nonhorror fans alike - the underlying emotional motivations of each character, including the antagonist will have you questioning your own initial perceptions of the characters and weather each deserved their own personal ending or not. One of those movies that creep up on your thoughts long after the final credits.
4 and a half out of 5 stars