There’s been a strange trend of slick, tense thrillers in recent years, from the decent Hush to the excellent 10 Cloverfield Lane, and Don’t Breathe fits perfectly into that ballpark – its enjoyable, well constructed, tense and an easy recommend to spend 90 minutes on.
Don’t Breathe (2016) is a thriller/horror film directed and written by Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead). It stars Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette and Daniel Zovatto as three young burglars who after a tip, decide to break into a blind war veterans house (Steven Lang) to steal several hundred thousand dollars. Things however don’t go according to plan when the man discovers them and turns the tables on the would-be thieves by barricading them in house with him.
The premise itself is a smart twist on the typical home invasion plot. Instead of the army vet being the sympathetic protagonist audiences are used to root for, he is instead the monstrous pursuer, chasing down the three leads like a machine contrary to his lack of sight. The simple premise leads to a straightforward narrative that keeps the focus on the moment-to-moment tension and scares, and there are plenty of those to go around. Through everything from a creaking floorboard to a lingering shot, Alvarez clearly knows how to build tension without the need for stereotypical scenarios or cheap jump scares. The third act does drag on for several moments too long, but aside from that niggle, Don’t Breathe is a solid exercise on how a simple, yet effective premise is all a movie needs to succeed.
The easy MVP of the cast is Steven Lang as the blind army vet. While audiences may start off sympathetic to the lonely figure, this quickly switches as the silent yet vengeful badass begins his reign of terror over the three home invaders. Its an incredibly physical and imposing performance, and Lang is the perfect fit for the role. As for the three leads, Levy is given the most attention, and does a great job with the intelligent, resourceful and sympathetic (not easy considering the plot) character of Rocky. The same can be said for Dylan Minnette who works as a good companion to Levy while also being equally intelligent and easy to root for. In fact, the writing of the movie should be commended by not succumbing to the typical horror trope of ridiculously stupid protagonists. Well, except for Daniel Zovatto’s Money (yes that is actually his listed name). From the moment his character is introduced, you know who he is, what’s going to happen and how much of a pain in the ass he’s going to be. Basically the gangster/macho/pisshead who makes both his companions look good, and its a shame his character wasn’t better developed outside of that stereotype to be on par with his fellow actors.
Outside of that, there’s little more to discuss with Don’t Breathe. Simple yet effective, with several great performances (and one jarring exception), Alarez has created an easy recommend for anyone who enjoys everything from a good home invasion, to having their insides twisted by a movie.
General Audiences: Highly Recommended
Film Buffs: Recommended