By Thomas Simpson
Don’t Breathe is a great contender for this year’s best horror and is sure to creep into a few overall top 10 lists. The most refreshing aspect of the film is that it shuns any supernatural involvement and opts for straight up terror with a human antagonist. When a trio of burglars decide to go for a big score they figure that stealing from a blind man will be an easy job. Unfortunately for our thieves, the Blind Man (Stephen Lang) is no easy mark and will go to great lengths to protect his property. He may be visually impaired but this is his domain and he’s in control.
I was in the minority when it came to Fede Alvarez’s remake of the Evil Dead. I didn’t feel it offered anything new to the genre and despite the director’s attempts to scare me, the overuse of gore did little to shock and left me bored by the end. With Don’t Breathe, Alvarez has binned the gratuitous carnage to focus on psychological dread. With the Blind Man, he’s presented a daunting movie monster with an admirable amount of depth to his backstory that he slowly leaks throughout the film.
The majority of the film takes place within the house creating a terrible tension coupled with claustrophobia. The lights remain dim though Pedro Luque doesn’t put the audience in the dark with his cinematography. The gloom is polished with a grimy residue that adds to the house of horrors the three delinquents find themselves in.
The small cast doesn’t allow for a large body count and a slaughter isn’t missed. The kills are methodical and necessary with no character included merely as fodder. The lack of bloodshed makes each murder mean something which in turns allows the audience to invest more in the characters’ survival.
What is questionable is the potential spoiler that’s given away at the start of the film. The opening shows the Blind Man dragging a victim which gives a strong indication as to how things will turn out. Thankfully there’s enough twists and turns in the third act to keep you on the edge of your seat, including a grotesque reveal that had me squirming in disgust.
Don’t Breathe shuns the mystical theatrics that have worked well for recent horrors to scare audiences with good a good old fashioned psychopath. The techniques employed by Alvarez are simple but effective with perhaps a little nod to Tremors thrown in for good measure. You won’t be checking under your bed when you get home but for the runtime of the movie you’ll be gripped to the screen.
Thomas Simpson is a writer and filmmaker based in Glasgow, U.K. Find him on Twitter: @Simmy41.