Three young adults down on their luck try to steal money from a house owned by a blind man. However it turns out very quickly that they may have bitten off more than they can chew.
Don’t Breathe is a brilliant example of stripped down, high concept, low budget horror film making at it’s very finest. It takes what isn’t an especially original idea (that of blind people gaining almost supernatural hearing) and turns it up to 11. It starts off as just a pure exercise in tension with one maybe three minute long shot (probably made with invisible cuts, but they really are invisible) in which the entire house’s layout is set up, key pieces of information are given to the audience members and nobody in the theatre takes a breath for that entire shot. It’s the kind of shot that makes you wonder why all horror films don’t take this long shot approach. This tension continues to build and build until the film reaches its climax. This climax by the way is a twenty minute long adrenaline rush that reminded me of the pulsating energy of this year’s 10 Cloverfeild Lane.
A common theme in Don’t Breathe is pushing the audience within a hair of what they can take before letting go. It does this with suspense, it also does this with genuine horror in one particular scene that has achieved a form of notoriety. For me, the further a movement like this is pushed to the boundaries of taste the better the eventual payoff will be. Me and the group of friends I went to see this with were literally cheering at the payoff to this notorious scene.
The performances are excellent all round here, with Dylan Minnette being especially impressive in managing to not just be seen as the guy from Goosebumps for me. Elsewhere Stephen Laing is impossibly menacing without saying very much at all as “The Blind Man” and Daniel Zovatto is fast becoming a real horror hero with this and his role in It Follows – two completely different performances incidentally. But of course as horror trope dictates the heart of the film comes from Jane Levy, the young adult whose life situation has gone south through no fault of her own but she’ll be damned if she won’t try anything to get out. Her whole performance sums up the feelings of a generation whose lives have been made more difficult by those that came before them. She’s the non-sexualised (I’m talking about by the filmmaker, characters may see her as a sexual object but that’s more of a commentary on them rather than her) no nonsense female horror protagonist the main stream has been needing for a long time now.
I think that in terms of criticism it could be said that the final act possibly has one too many small twists for the film’s own good and could probably lose 5 minutes. But this is a minor niggle in what is a thoroughly enjoyable experience.