The most effective horror films are those based on realism. Watching ordinary people terrorised by everyday things can be scarier than supernatural entities. Don’t Breathe revels in its authenticity. Directed with intensity by Fede Alvarez, the confined location draws you into the heat of the horrific battle. Like any good terror tale, it stays with you long after the credits have finished its reign of shocking dread.
Three thieves, Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) pick a target for their latest scheme. They choose the home of blind war veteran Norman (Stephen Lang) thinking he will be an easy mark. Grabbing their bagful of burglary gear, they look forward to the cash bounty they hear Norman has. Quickly they discover Norman isn’t any ordinary guy with dark secrets and skills pulling them into a cesspool of despair where only the blind man is king.
Don’t Breathe trades typical genre gore for genuine suspense. Although the thieving trio are the villains, you still end up hoping they survive their ordeal. Even the Norman character isn’t completely evil as you understand his motivations and from where he’s come. This makes for a more interesting thriller where not everything is cut and dried. The limited characters allow you to invest in their plight with the claustrophobic setting increasing the danger levels.
Alvarez handles the scares well, showing flair in offering something different. His cast is strong, making their roles seem real. Lang, in particular, oozes menace whilst having the ability to inject pathos into his multi-dimensional character. The photography is especially fine, effectively exploring Lang’s world of blindness where his other senses miss little. It’s refreshing seeing everyone use their wits to survive situations instead of using easy magic, further conveying the gritty realism Alvarez is after.
Don’t Breathe is an effective shocker made for a pittance but delivering big on genuine scares. Hopefully it doesn’t ruin its allure by making sequels as it stands alone well. With its lean direction and performances it should gain admirers in spite of its eternally shadowy shenanigans.
Reviewed by Patrick Moore
Rating out of 10: 7