At first glance, Don’t Breathe may look like a cheap exploitation picture. Fede Alvarez’s latest thriller is a lot smarter and more fun than it has any right to be, however. The film might not revolutionize the home invasion genre. For what it is, though, Don’t Breathe is well crafted, effectively acted, and full of clever twists. Alvarez and co-screenwriter Rodo Sayagues deserve credit for taking a fairly basic premise and doing everything imaginable with it. They even set us up for a sequel, which actually sounds pretty promising.
Don’t Breathe is well crafted, effectively acted, and full of clever twists.
Jane Levy, who was previously seen in Alvarez’s Evil Dead, stars as Rocky, a troubled teenager who provides for her little sister by robbing houses. Her partners in crime are Money, played by Daniel Zovatto from It Follows, and Alex, played by Dylan Minnette from Goosebumps. The three delinquents stumble upon the score of a lifetime when they learn an old-timer (Stephen Lang) has a fortune somewhere in his house. The fact that the old man is blind seemingly sweetens the deal. The crooks quickly find, however, that the unnamed blind man could seriously give Daredevil a run for his money.
As a war veteran, the blind man is quite good at killing people. So what? Rocky and her friends can just walk out the front door, right? Well, it’s actually not that simple. The blind man puts his house on total lockdown and hunts the intruders down. Every time it looks like one of our protagonists is going to escape, another roadblock waits around the corner. Yet, none of these developments ever feel forced. The film legitimately keeps the audience guessing what lies ahead and is guaranteed to catch you off guard.
The film legitimately keeps the audience guessing what lies ahead and is guaranteed to catch you off guard.
Levy once again proves that she has all the makings of a classic scream queen. Minnette also brings a real charm to his role. Zovatto admittedly tries a little too hard to act like a gangsta, but he fortunately isn’t on screen for too long. Of course the film truly belongs to Lang, who commands every scene he’s in with a domineering presence. Just looking at this guy is enough to send a shiver up your spine. Given everything the blind man has been through, you might briefly sympathize with him. Once he takes matters too far, though, one of the most unlikely monsters of modern horror emerges.
Don’t Breathe is by no means perfect. The dialog in particular can be kind of uncomfortable, especially in the first ten minutes. Once we get inside the old man’s house, though, the film relies more on visuals, jump scares, and inventive developments. The filmmakers put the limited environment to impeccable use, creating a claustrophobic sense of dread reminiscent of 10 Cloverfield Lane and You’re Next. While those are both superior thrillers, Don’t Breathe still gets the job done with freights and delights. Just remember that this is one of those movies that you need to watch with the lights out… hey, now there’s an inspired double feature.