Director: Fede Alvarez
Starring: Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette
The director of Don’t Breathe (Fede Alvarez) is no stranger to the horror genre, with his 2013 release Evil Dead providing enough blood and guts to sort you out for a few years or so. When his latest release Don’t Breathe came to my attention, I was quite excited to say the least as it looked like it would offer something different in the realm of horror. And it certainly delivers.
We follow three young burglars who, upon discovering a lone man sitting on a fortune, decide to break in to take the cash. Not knowing, of course, that this man (played frighteningly well by Stephen Lang) is ex-military who knows how to handle himself. They enter his world and they must do everything to escape, A very simple storyline, but one which is approached in a fresh light.
Lang himself ramps up the horror and suspense by the way he utilises body language. He hunches and creaks his neck when listening, and manoeuvres around the house like a possessed animal, even making noises in the process. Perhaps Alvarez here is hinting towards a man who has no humanity left due to his past (which we discover later in the movie) and portrays him as this mindless animal he has become.
A main reason a horror movie doesn’t work for me, along with needless jump scares, is the story. In many it’s what you see is what you get, and the characters and storyline doesn’t develop in a way to keep you interested in the horror. But here with Don’t Breathe the whole dimension of the story changes on multiple occasions in dark, twisted ways that kept me so intrigued and absorbed until the end. This change of direction comes at a perfect time, I was thinking very soon beforehand that if the movie continued down the same path, it was going to bore me. This change and development of character is sickening and it’s where the horror aspect comes into play, and drives the film to its end.
The overall look of this movie is gorgeous, light is used wonderfully and the camera moves around the house seamlessly. When the three first enter the home, there is a great one take that moves around the house, showing us the viewer of the environment that we will be in for the next 70 minutes or so. During this shot the camera smoothly flows from corner to corner, character to character, and offers plenty of weapons that will in no doubt come into play. I really enjoyed this scene and set us up in the house very well. In one scene, the lights go out and everything turns grey, we are now in his world and this is shown in the eyes of the characters, the intruders’ are large and panicking, the blind man’s quite the opposite. We are taken out of our comfort zone and into is, and we really feel like this.
Partner these three attributes with fantastic sound design and perfectly placed scares, and we have a fantastic movie in the horror genre. The only minor quibbles I have with it is that I think they overplayed the “Cujo” style dog a bit too much, and the final few minutes felt a bit anti-climactic for me. But, overall Don’t Breathe is a highly suspenseful movie that will ensure I never look at a Turkey Baster the same way again…