Before watching Don’t Breathe, I had no idea what to expect. Sometimes it’s better to go into watching something without any pre-existing expectations. We’ve all seen a movie that had received high praise but for whatever reason, you just couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. Then there are those films that you come away from feeling that it undoubtedly deserved the acclaim. It’s extremely rare these days for any modern horror movie to get almost universally praised across the board, let’s see what all the commotion is about.
Rocky, Alex, and Money are three troublesome youngsters who make a living by breaking into homes secured by Alex’s father’s security company and selling the items they take. However, the person buying the stolen goods from Money doesn’t give them a fair price, and not nearly enough to fund Rocky’s dream of moving to California with her little sister to escape their neglectful mother and her alcoholic boyfriend.
Money receives a tip that an Army veteran living in an abandoned Detroit neighbourhood has $300,000 in cash in his house, given as a settlement after a wealthy young woman, Cindy Roberts, killed his daughter in a car accident. The three stake out the house and discover that the man is in fact blind. After some deliberation, they decide to break into the house at night.
I won’t say much more because it would spoil what takes place but for me, that is a fantastic premise for a horror movie right there.
I will say that what takes place is one of the tensest experiences that I have had with a horror movie in a very long time. You can probably already assume from what I have explained above that this seemingly feeble blind man doesn’t turn out to be as easy as you might initially expect. I love that you can totally see things from the characters prospective in that on the exterior, this should be the simplest robbery in history. It turns the whole “home invasion” concept on its head; he’s not trapped in there with them, they are trapped in his home with him. Not only does he have an increased level of hearing but it’s his house and he’s perfectly memorized every corner of it.
It would have been all too easy to have made it out that he was simply a mindless psychopath but there is much more to it than that. As things begin to unfold, there are a couple of shocking twists along the way which is greatly appreciated.
Don’t Breathe opens with the trio carelessly robbing a house which was done intentionally to make you immediately dislike them and leave you thinking that you will feel no sympathy for what is to come. Even though you do learn about the motivations behind why they need the cash, you’ll likely feel little sympathy for them when they decide to rob a blind army veteran.
As their ordeal goes from a bad situation to worse, you’ll probably begin to feel pretty bad for what they have to endure. Still, you might think they deserve what they get for breaking into a person’s house. Once everything is on the table about the blind man and the depraved things he has done and plans to do, you’ll either feel an ounce of sympathy or none at all. The film is divisive in that people’s opinions will differ on how they feel about each of the characters which is really impressive, it’s not often that a horror movie makes you think.
The performances had to be exceptional and they are. There isn’t that much dialogue once they reach the house (for obvious reasons), so the characters have to depend on their expressions and gestures to convey emotions which is really effective.
Stephen Lang obviously isn’t blind in real life but he gives such a convincing performance that you’ll believe he is, even as a blind man he is an extremely imposing, ruthless figure. That’s probably the word I would use to describe the acting as a whole in the film, convincing.
There are a couple of things that don’t quite make sense but I feel they can be quite easily overlooked.
Don’t Breathe takes a simple concept and spins it into an incredibly glorious exercise in suspense with plenty of nail-biting/edge of the seat moments along the way. It takes you on a relentless journey that more often than not, takes a direction you won’t see coming. This is the first film that the director (Fede Alvarez) has worked on since Evil Dead (2013), it was worth the wait.