On the heels of The Shallows comes another tight and taut little nail-biter of a thriller, Don’t Breathe, which totally lives up to its title. It squeezes such an incredible amount of exquisite tension out of its simple premise — millennials vs. an old blind man — that you literally won’t want to breathe until it’s all over.
Said millennials (Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto), who spend their time robbing houses secured by Minnette’s father’s security company, get told of a big stash of cash hidden in the house of a blind army veteran (Stephen Lang) in an abandoned Detroit neighborhood, break into it one night, and discover that said old blind man doesn’t take too kindly to intruders.
The premise alone ensures a good, suspenseful time, as the youths must spend parts of the film being unable to speak or move so as to not get caught. And Evil Dead-remake director Fede Alvarez skillfully tightens the screws even more via terrific sound design, which allows every exhale, whimper, creak or gradual cracking of a window pane to generate ripples of dread.
Alvarez’s sharp editing helps ratchet up the tension even more, and he makes effective use of the house itself — what Lang has going on in the basement will truly disturb you — and gets creative in how he gets the surviving youths out of Lang’s clutches. Towards the end of the film, he even manages to ape Cujo to considerably unnerving effect.
Perhaps most impressive is how Alvarez and his co-writer shift your allegiances to the characters. Sure, the youths need Lang’s money for emotionally excusable reasons, but who robs a blind man? Conversely, while you feel for Lang because of his impairment and what we are told he’s been through, his actions and true intentions turn him into a boogeyman.
Levy (ABC’s Suburgatory) proves a resourceful heroine, Minnette (Goosebumps) convincingly pines after Levy, and Zovatto appears in his second great recent horror flick (the other being It Follows). But for me, Lang makes the movie. Known for playing tough military men (like in Avatar), he easily conveys his character’s skills and formidable physicality, while nearly making us sympathetic to the man’s want to pick off of a trio of photogenic people born after 1990. – [DVD]
DVD Release Date: 11/29/16