Today: June 18, 2024

Don’t Breathe

Given his debut feature was the quite literally blood-soaked Evil Dead remake those of a squeamish nature would be right in entering Fede Alvarez’s Don’t Breathe with a sense of trepidation. But while the claret doesn’t flow, at least not in the tidal waves it did in Evil Dead, Don’t Breathe will have you cowering behind your hands for a host of different horrors.

Stuck in the rundown world of Detroit three teenagers Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) are trying to raise enough money to get out of town. Their means of doing this is to rob houses, think the kids of The Bling Ring but less 90210 and more 8 Mile. When they find their next mark they think they have hit paydirt when they learn he is sitting on a small fortune and is blind. But The Blind Man (Stephen Lang) is a former military veteran and robbing from the blind soon turns into a house of horrors for this trio.

Unlike his last outing Alvarez chooses to build things slowly with Don’t Breathe, ironically enough letting the characters breathe. Once in the house however Alvarez’s gliding cameras gradually build a tension that will have many chewing their nails like Bugs Bunny on a carrot. Imagine the way in which David Fincher’s camera utilised the house in Panic Room but on a full-blown horror scale and you begin to appreciate the exercise in nerve shredding that lies ahead.

The first hour of Don’t Breathe is, like the house itself, wonderfully dark, menacing and intricate. The plot throws up a few surprises to keep you constantly guessing while Alvarez’s direction is a character unto itself. Like Evil Dead there is a shot early on that takes in an assortment of household objects you just know are going to be used as weapons later down the line.

It’s in the final half hour that Don’t Breathe becomes chaotic. For some it will only heighten the experience, that it becomes so crazy it borders on funny, even if the humour is unintentional. But some of the impacts and means of torture Alvarez and co-writer Rodo Sayagues conjure will undoubtedly leave you reeling, for better or worse. Let’s just say you’ll never look at a turkey baster the same way again.

As The Blind Man Lang brings a sense of both anguish and alertness to the film. He rarely utters a world and his mannerisms bear an uncanny resemblance to the creatures in The Descent only adding to his presence being felt even when not on screen. Meanwhile Jane Levy must surely be a glutton for punishment. Having survived the ordeal of Evil Dead, in which you have to assume she was expected to bathe in blood daily, she allows Alvarez to torment her in all new ways. She’s the kind of modern last girl standing that could rapidly become a poster-girl for the genre.

At times will have you gasping at others puffing your cheeks in the sheer lunacy, Don’t Breathe demonstrates that Alvarez is a director well versed in tension building if a little over the top in plotting.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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