Don’t Breathe is the exact kind of film that horror fans will love. But it’s not horror. And it’s the kind of film that folks who just want a good time would enjoy as well. With a stunning soundtrack completely composed with household objects, this contained drama is as original horror house as you’re gonna get. Without even being conscious of the camera work, Don’t Breathe engages us vicariously through the characters; When they held their breath, I followed suit. And with long stretches of darkness and silence, Don’t Breathe is an exhilirating experience almost akin to being holed up in the madness yourself. It doesn’t play on your doubts like 10 Cloverfield does. It plays on your senses.
Don’t Breathe works because the actors who play their roles have charisma. Being emotionally invested in both the perpetrators and the victim is not an easy thing to do. And its so much harder for the film to generate this kind of dual sympathy especially since the backstories aren’t too deeply explored. With the sheer terror,dread,guilt and pain that each character is able to drain before their time is up, Don’t Breathe manages to sustain a troubling dilemma within us all. Who is the wolf and the lamb? And who’s actually the ‘blind’?
I haven’t seen many thrillers like this so I can’t tell if it has used certain tropes or plot devices before. But judging from what I know, I think it manages better than most of its counterparts. True, jumpscares provide most of the jitters. And things going horribly awry is as uncommon as teenagers making stupid decisions. Don’t Breathe isn’t going to blow you away with something novel. Despite that, it still shines. Fede Alvarez’s angles and perspective is something to behold. He can manouvre spaces to make it seem as if there’s a whole lot more room than it actually has. The ‘night-vision’ style scene creeps the hell out of me because for the first time, the tables have shifted. We can’t relate to a blind man who can’t normally see but we know how absolutely useless our eyes are in pitch darkness. The many moments where the old man walks straight past a character is even scarier than its jumpscares. There is an overbearing sense of tension and anxiety that lasts forever.
The payoff is sick. I mean sick to the rotten core. There is no way to feel at the end. There is no moral point. Don’t Breathe is simply a beautiful thriller. The acting chops from Stephen Lang and Jane Levy bring out the best in this blood-soaked imagery of things going terribly wrong on things that were already terribly wrong. The result is a little surprising believe it or not. But what’s not surprising is that Don’t Breathe is one of the most nerve-wrecking films of the year and there’s no way to suppress this anxious…almost breathless feeling.