Don't breathe. Breathe and you're dead. He is fast, faster than you can believe. Don't make a sound. Don't turn and run. And don't breathe. Good luck...
Don't Breathe is a horror flick from director Fede Alvarez, who also helmed the recent Evil Dead remake. It's a house invasion thriller that turns the tables on the unwelcome guests, trapping a trio of petty criminals in a dilapidated old house with a blind man (Stephen Lang) who ain't afraid to fight back.
Rocky (Jane Levy), her boyfriend Money (Daniel Zovatto) and their meek third wheel Alex (Dylan Minnette) are three thieves working the shoddy streets of Detroit. Determined to make enough money to move out west, they target a house in an abandoned neighborhood that is owned by a lonely old blind man. Having come into some money following the death of his daughter, this retired army vet is sitting on a whole heap of moolah - and Rocky plans to use the money to make a better life for herself, her sister and her friends. However, upon entering his home, the three find that this guy isn't giving up without a fight - armed and dangerous, the blind guy uses his ultra-sharp sense of hearing and smell to hunt and hurt them. The only way they can escape? By not making any noise as they make their way towards the door...
Don't Breathe has been lauded with critical praise since it opened in the US a few weeks back - some reviews have gone as far as saying that it's the best American horror film in decades. That's high praise! It's also a little hyperbolic if you ask me, but don't worry - it's still a really effective thriller that stands head and shoulders above most mainstream films we've seen this year.
Firstly, the technical elements are all superb; direction, cinematography, editing, sound design. Don't Breathe understands how to craft tension and hold the audience on the edge of their seats. Much like the three kids in the film, you'll find yourself holding your breath whenever the blind guy (that's seriously what he's credited as) is on screen.
Roque Baños' soundtrack is put to good use too; it's minimal and mostly a mixture of foreboding piano and scuzzy synth, but it fits the tone of the film well.
However, the film would be nowhere if it weren't for the excellent performances from Levy, Minnette and Lang. The latter is particularly chilling; a second act twist casts Lang's character in a totally different light and the actor is able to transition from sympathetic to scary and into straight-up psychotic with ease. Levy is wonderful too in her second collaboration with Alvarez.
The only real issue with Don't Breathe are some plot holes towards the end; I don't want to go into spoilers, but there are some glaring issues with how things are resolved that you can pick at if you want to go there. They didn't ruin the whole movie for me; I was having too much fun with the wonderfully crafted scares and overall execution of the clever premise.
The Verdict: 8.5/10
Effective horror storytelling and a trifecta of impressive performances make Fede Alvarez's Don't Breathe a cult champion that lingers long in your memory.
Don't Breathe is in cinemas across Australia now