I finally saw Don't Breathe after weeks of waiting. A friend treated me and I can say what a treat this film was. From the guy behind the Evil Dead remake and also starring Jane Levy (who appeared in that gloriously gory reboot), Don't Breathe is the most tense and teeth-gritting film of 2016 alongside Mike Flanagan's Hush. This is a 90-minute panic attack experience with perils around every corner for its characters and genius ideas scattered throughout. Do not miss out on this gem of a horror.
Three thieves hoping to walk away with a hefty fortune break into the house of a blind man thinking it'll be an easy take, but the blind man isn't as innocent and as helpless as he seems. A simple premise churns out a surprising amount of thrills and moments of pure shock and terror without resorting to cheap scare tactics and cliches. I wouldn't say the film achieves a sense of claustrophobia, instead it makes you do what the title says: Don't breathe. Multiple times throughout the film I found myself shushing at the screen as if to tell the characters to stop making sounds and moving, every inch they shuffled made a sound that alerted the blind man; this is such an effective and immersive film.
The lighting is terrific as the orange hues from the outside shine through the windows into the murky and dimly lit interiors. The basement scenes are shrouded in darkness, and I was particularly fond of the night-vision style moments — the characters' eyes look really creepy as their pupils enlarge. It's a strange image and this film is full of them. I won't give away spoilers, but what hides down in that basement delivers a smart twist I didn't see coming.
As mentioned above, I won't give away spoilers but there is a scene involving a turkey baster and I haven't heaved and felt physically sick during a horror movie in such a long time. That's not a criticism — this is a shocking and gross moment that adds to character in a revolting manner; you'll never look at turkey basters again.
Jane Levy is slowly becoming one of the great modern horror actresses. She never overdoes it with the facial expressions of fear, she knows when to cue those looks of fear and when she does you feel it too. I loved her character, who dreams of escaping to a better life and will do whatever it takes. Levy is ballsy and is not afraid of putting herself in awkward positions, as clearly seen in a nail-biting finale where she finds herself tied up. Another great performance from the star, I want to see more of Jane Levy in this genre.
Dylan Minnette gives his career best, in my opinion. The guy has proved himself very funny in films such as Goosebumps and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, but here he shines brilliantly as a rather uncertain and delicate-natured thief — a strange feature for a thief character, but it's an interest take — and Minnette fits the role like a glove. Much like Levy, his facial expressions of terror are enough to make your hair stand on end, his dialogue and delivery are spot-on and he handles himself well physically, as this film finds him taking quite the beating as well as expressing stillness on multiple occasions.
Another terrific performance came from his co-star Daniel Zovatto, who plays a dirtbag of a thief. His cocky and arrogant nature gets him on the wrong end of a situation. Zovatto makes an unlikeable guy strangely likable and fascinating, portraying a character who has his eyes on the prize and doesn't think about anything else.
Stephen Lang is a formidable and terrifying onscreen force as The Blind Man. His eyes, bursts of aggression and the incredibly unnerving voice all come together to create a memorable performance. Lang does a terrific job of making you fear his character but also feel sorry for him despite his characters questionable actions, his blindness adds innocence but that's soon quickly shattered. All in all, the acting in this film is tremendous and it couldn't have been casted any better.
Director Fede Alvarez delivers yet another thrilling and hugely entertaining horror, with bursts of ingenuity running throughout the film. The silence is his weapon and he uses it so well, this film isn't the crash bang wallop-loud jump scare type, its horror comes from the unpredictability and the fact that the characters are always in danger and are never safe at any moment. The writing packs relentless violence, characters are mercilessly injured and put in peril and it's what keeps you hooked and fascinated. Do not miss Don't Breathe, it is an absolute riot and one of the best films of 2016. Rating: 8/10