Written By Tommy Tracy
Don’t Breathe Plot Summary:
A group of friends break into the house of a blind man (Stephen Lang), hoping to get one last score before they move on to bigger and better things. They find out this is not as easy as it seems, encountering one horror after another in the house.
To some, August is the down end of the summer blockbuster season, usually dishing out decent to awful films in preparation for the September-December run of Oscar contenders. However, this year’s August run of movies have saved the lackluster season, giving us laughs with Sausage Party, adventure with Pete’s Dragon and bravery with Kubo and the Two Strings. The trend continues with Don’t Breathe, an absolute fear inducing thriller from director Fede Alvarez (2013’s The Evil Dead) and legendary producer, Sam Raimi (director of the original 1980 Evil Dead).
Friends Alex (Dylan Minnette), Roxanne (Jane Levy) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) are petty criminals, breaking into houses and stealing things like watches, shoes and clothing to sell to a middle man, who gives them a “fair” shake. This is accomplished through Alex’s unsuspecting father, who works for a security company, thus making it possible for Alex to use the codes from his records. They plan to skip town, but one last heist is in store for them; a blind man who received a settlement from his daughter’s death has thousands of dollars stashed away in his house. The gang feels he is easy pickings. They are, of course, wrong, because what kind of movie would that be?
The strength behind Don’t Breathe is the underlining themes of insecurity (both literal and figurative), and a sense of right and wrong. While both the criminals and the blind man are sympathetic characters, you also know they have done something to put a scorch mark on those sympathies. Each of our four main characters has redeeming and despicable qualities. The filmmakers also make great use of the theory of Chekov’s Gun, wherein if you set something up in the first act, it needs to pay off in the third. This theory plays out so well. It’s not heavy-handed whatsoever; I can’t wait to watch it again and see more things I didn’t notice the first viewing, much like The Cabin in the Woods.
The use of lighting is also amazing. The house is dimly lit, as our “victim” (if you will) is blind. This really helps when our gang of misfits is scurrying around the house with phone lights and gunshots going off. In contrast, the use of no light during one breathtaking scene is incredible, as our criminals see what our blind man sees – absolutely nothing.
As a horror fan, I have been subjected to a vast array of crap where filmmakers always seem to think “false or undeserved scares” are what scares an audience. They DO NOT! For those of you wondering what an “underserved scare” is, it’s when a filmmaker decides they are going to set the mood to scare you, but instead of following through on the fright, they throw a cat out of nowhere, or have what’s hiding behind the door be a friend with no imminent harm or danger. I am pleased to report that Don’t Breathe has none of that. While there are loud and abrasive scares, they are all earned. Some of them come out of absolute nowhere, in dead silence when the audience is feeling calm. I do not jump often at movies, but I found myself doing so a few times here.
The third act, of which I will not spoil here (I say that a lot), is going to be where this film falters for some. While I quite enjoyed it and think it added more suspense to an already tense and violent film, I can see where others will be turned off. There is a bit of exposition and a gross out moment that will make every man immediately feel guilty of things they ask of their girlfriend, but again, it’s subjective.
Don’t Breathe is a breath of fresh air (pun fully intended) in not only the horror circles, but the disappointing summer of films we’ve received thus far. It’s fun, exhilarating and downright terrifying. It feels original, which is something we don’t get very often. It officially holds a special place in my heart as the best horror film I’ve seen this year. While I find it amazing, I can see general horror audiences (they sadly exist) not being as up on it as I am, as they do love their “undeserved scares.”
Final Grade: 9.5/10