Don’t Breathe is the second feature film from Fede Alvarez, whose debut feature was the reboot of the Evil Dead franchise, and is produced by horror legend Sam Raimi. Evil Dead was a fantastic return to that dreaded cabin in the woods, albeit extremely gory, graphic and with as little CGI used as possible to heighten the realism, and one of the best horror films in recent years. Therefore, the next film from Alvarez would always have a lot to live up to. Don’t Breathe does a brilliant job of cementing Alvarez’s role in the world of horror cinema, and proves he is definitely not a one hit wonder.
Don’t Breathe follows three amateur thieves, Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette), and Money (Daniel Zovatto). Fed up of the meagre returns on their steals, they all agree to perform one final heist which will take them out of Detroit and lead them to a better life. They are informed of a house in an abandoned neighbourhood which is inhabited by a blind ex-marine, known only as the Blind Man, who is sitting on some compensation money following the death of his daughter in a car accident. Alex, whose dad runs a security company which covers the Blind Man, steals the device which allows the trio to enter the house and reset the alarm system without alerting the authorities. Money gasses the Blind Man’s bedroom out so they aren’t disturbed during their visit, and once they trust they are safe to continue they go on the hunt for the safe containing the money. To their dismay, the Blind Man awakens and he isn’t as helpless as he appears. He is resourceful and uses his blindness and knowledge of his home to his advantage, to stop the intruders from taking his stash and from finding out his dark secret.
One thing which we find is really lacking in modern day horror films is depth. Many rely on incessant jump scares to classify their product as a horror movie. Although Don’t Breathe may be classed more as a psychological thriller, it is truly horrifying. The tension is slowly built and just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, the crescendo continues. With a few jump scares included, as is expected in a suspenseful horror movie, they aren’t overly predictable or too frequent. The balance between the frights is perfect.
Rocky, played brilliantly by Jane Levy, is essentially the main protagonist of the film. Despite her criminal tendencies, we realise she is trying to make a better life for her and her young daughter and to escape the poisonous influences around her. She is an extremely strong character, and Levy is a true rising star. Her ability to convey real emotion, especially when acting scared, is absolutely on point and so believable. We cannot help but root for her and hope that, despite the immorality of her actions, she escapes with the money.
The Blind Man, played outstandingly by Stephen Lang, is a particularly slow-burner of a character. At first all we know is that he is an ex-marine, so we expect him to be knowledgeable in combat, weapons and stealth. Then he begins to display weakness when we discover that there is something strange going on. He seems to be protecting more than money and he goes to great lengths to prevent the trio from learning what that is. He is intelligent, unforgiving and extremely well trained. He constantly changes the pace of the film and makes us question the fate of the thieves.
We believe that Alvarez has commenced a winning streak in modern horror filmmaking. If his third venture into the world of horror is half as good as the likes of Don’t Breathe or Evil Dead, we reckon he is set to become the next big name in horror and look forward to what he releases next. Don’t Breathe has set a precedent for the art of suspense in horror cinema today. It is an outstanding feat and is superbly original. With Sam Raimi firmly in Alvarez’s corner we can be sure to predict a bright future for this new director.
We give Don’t Breathe the full 5 stars for reigniting the hope of horror cinema today. No longer do we need to rely on the golden age of horror for thrills, and cannot wait to see what his next project will be.
Don’t Breathe is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray – order it on Amazon here – and give yourself a sneak peak at the rights by seeing the trailer below.