A Review of “Don’t Breathe”

What happens when three thieves decide to break into a blind man’s house to steal his hidden fortune? The answer is a lean, mean, claustrophobic home invasion horror thriller that will leave you gasping for breath!

Detroit hoods Rocky, Alex, and Money (Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, and Daniel Zovattto) rob houses that are protected by Alex’s dad’s security company. Rocky dreams of taking her little sister away from her abusive mother and decides to go along with one big score – robbing a blind man rumored to have $300,000 stashed away in his home. However, once they get inside, they find themselves engaged in a savage game of cat and mouse where the blind man, played to great effect by Stephan Lang, turns out to be far more resourceful than they expected. Throw in a giant guard dog and a twist in the basement and this movie is set to be up with the greats of this sub-genre. Like Wes Craven’s “Last House on the Left,” once we go inside, the chances of getting back out are close to zero.

Perhaps due to the reception of his blood-soaked debut in the remake of “Evil Dead,” which was widely panned for its over-the-top gore, Uruguayan filmmaker Fede Alvarez decided against a supernatural villain. In fact, he went in a completely different direction by making the antagonist blind. It doesn’t take long before the tables turn on that seeming disadvantage.

Photo credit: imdb.com

“Don’t Breathe” fires on all cylinders when it plays on our primal fears of being alone in the dark and trapped in an unfamiliar place. Although our protagonists can see, “Don’t Breathe” invests heavily in a dark atmosphere designed to simulate the horror of being blind, where even the slightest noise seems to give our blind villain the upper hand. “The Bland Man” has only a few lines of dialogue as well, and most of them come near the end of the film to pretty chilling effect. Altogether it’s a pretty clever device that hasn’t been used to such great effect since 1971’s “See No Evil” with Mia Farrow.

Unlike so many other modern horror movies, Alvarez manages to choke you with atmosphere instead of buckets of blood. There has been some concern over some misogynist scenes, but I would point out that it is not only women who are singled out for violence. Perhaps that is a poor excuse, as the scene that occurs with Rocky in the basement will surely disturb anybody. Plus, they were able to achieve that effect without a bloodbath, which is a high point in horror filmmaking.

“Don’t Breathe” cost $9.9 million dollars and grossed $152 million at the box office. Alvarez has already confirmed that there will be a sequel focusing on Stephen Lang’s menacing character. I, for one, can’t wait to see it. B+

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