Don’t Breathe

As a clever twist on the home invasion genre, Don’t Breathe is both terrifying and shocking.

Remember that hilarious film about a kid outfoxing burglars in Home Alone? Now get a load of Don’t Breathe, a clever twist on the home invasion genre that will have you quivering in fright instead of laughing out loud.

There’s a significant plot twist too but before this is revealed, director and co-writer Fede Alvarez wastes no time in unleashing a truckload of terror. A quick introduction tells us that petty thieves Rocky, her boyfriend Money, and Alex are down on their luck until they receive a tip-off about an old man who received a cash settlement after his daughter was killed in a car accident. To their pleasant surprise, the old man is blind and he lives alone in an abandoned neighborhood. But once they break into his house, there awaits more surprises that are not so pleasant, and as it turns out, shockingly nasty for us too.

Deeply rooted in the horror-thriller genre, Don’t Breathe spans at just under 90 minutes, but don’t underestimate its relatively short running time or its skimpy production budget. In just his second offering since the Evil Dead reboot, Alvarez delivers with almost Hitchcockian precision by using suspense and shock like a one-two punch combo. And although these are his principal tools to induce primal fear in the audience, there’s plenty more at work to have viewers peeping through their fingers. Technical aspects like deft camerawork and sound mixing amplifies the fear factor to discomforting claustrophobia, owing to which the mounting peril on screen becomes directly proportional to increasing stress levels experienced by the viewer.

While the actors playing the burglars are virtually unknown, Jane Levy as Rocky and Daniel Zovatto as Money aren’t new to horror, having previously starred in Evil Dead and It Follows (2015) respectively. As the script dictates, they don’t have to say much yet successfully depict the outright horror of facing a superior and deadly antagonist known simply as ‘The Blind Man’ (Stephen Lang). If you thought Lang was a menacing villain in Avatar, nothing but nerves of steel can prepare you for his terrifying delivery in this film; and that’s before his character turns off the lights.

Don’t Breathe isn’t the kind of gimmicky horror film made for cheap thrills. And for those who care to notice, there’s even subtle social commentary on the failing economy in parallel to an unstable justice system. But that’s just the film at its lightest level. At its best, this is a horror film that is wickedly dark and for some viewers even nerve-wrecking to the point of suffocation. But then the title is already an apt warning – watch with bated breath.

Rating: ★★★★☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.