Rocky desperately wants to take her little sister away from their abusive home. Together with her two friends, they begin robbing houses in order to get enough money to leave town. The friends finally decide to go after the perfect heist: a blind man rumored to have hundreds of thousands of dollars stashed in his house who lives alone in a deserted part of town. Everything starts out according to plan, but things quickly go south. The blind man is more than capable of protecting his home and the many secrets that lie within.
I’m happy to say that Fede Alvarez has once again proved he is an exceptional director. This is only his second feature length film, and already he is making quite the name for himself in the horror industry. While I absolutely loved his version of Evil Dead, I’m delighted that he went in a different direction with this film. The two films are really completely different sub-genres of horror, but the one thing they have in common (besides Alvarez and actress Jane Levy) is that both films have many instances that make you cringe. Don’t Breathe is raw, unnerving, and a true thriller.
A home invasion kind of thriller isn’t anything new to the genre. It is a simple idea, but Alvarez masterfully elevates the story to a work of art. One of my favorite shots in the film is when the kids first break into the home and are trying to find the money. It is all done in one continuous take as the camera goes back and forth through the halls following the different characters. There are also many different layers to the plot. Every time you think you understand what’s going on, the plot thickens and everything is thrown into chaos. The story also has aspects that are uncomfortable to watch in the best possible way. It adds a bit of shock value, but it remains relevant to what is going on. It is not a shock just for the sake of getting a reaction from the audience.
The actors in this film are not only well cast, but they all blow me away. When talking about the acting it’s impossible to not talk about Stephen Lang (Avatar, The Monkey’s Paw) as the blind man. Lang has played military characters before, but he takes it to a place of methodical insanity in this performance. His character is brutal, unhinged, and he will not stop until he gets what he wants. Lang’s portrayal of a blind character is fantastic. If I didn’t already know he could see I would assume he was truly blind. The other standout performance is Jane Levy (Evil Dead, Suburgatory) as Rocky. We already know from Evil Dead that Levy is an amazing young talent. She is no different in Don’t Breathe. She easily adapts to the role, and the audience is instantly drawn to her. Levy’s character is compelling because you know what she is doing is wrong, but her reason behind it is sincere. That is a common theme among all the characters. Their actions may be horrible, but when you know why they do these things it makes you sympathize with them.
There are very little effects to speak of in this film. The main practical effects center around the blind man character. The blind man lost his sight while in the war, presumably from some kind of explosion. Lang wears very unsettling contacts that cloud the iris and pupil. The clouding is even more disturbing because it is muddled and uneven. They also implement some facial prosthetic to create the look of burn scars across Lang’s cheeks and a bit around his eyes. The overall look is very well done. It is realistic enough that it’s almost hard to look directly at him.
Fede Alvarez has created another thrilling work of art that makes audiences squirm. The level of intensity is this film starts early and doesn’t let up until the grand finale. There is only one even remotely bad thing I can say about this film, and it is just that I noticed a couple of editing errors while watching it. Honestly, it’s something most people probably won’t notice (and sometimes I wish I didn’t). Aside from that Don’t Breathe has a great story, phenomenal acting, and it takes a relatively simple plot then ramps it up to a level few have ventured into. This is definitely not a film for the faint of heart, so consider yourself warned.
OVERALL RATING: 9/10