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The Filmaholic Reviews: Don't Breathe (2016)

Posted on the 26 August 2016 by Filmaholic Reviews @FilmaholicRvews

The Filmaholic Reviews: Don't Breathe (2016)
   Don’t Breathe achieves something that most thrillers and horror films do not these days. It is a film with no nonsense or filler in it. It gets straight to the point, and pushes through without getting distracted by anything else. Despite its straightforward approach however, it somehow subverts expectations. Think how rare that is in a film. Yet, director Fede Alvarez somehow pulled it off.    Don’t Breathe is a lean, mean, and terrifying thriller that grabs you by the nuts and squeezes them for 88 minutes. The title is apt. I found myself holding my own breath for certain sequences of the film without realizing it, as if I were the characters onscreen. Forget paranormal stuff, this is true horror.
   The film begins in the decaying slums of Detroit. Three young thieves, Rocky (Jane Levy), Money (Daniel Zovatto), and Alex (Dylan Minnette) break into homes and steal valuables so they can get enough money to move to California and start anew. Alex’s father happens to own a security company that sets up house alarms, which means Alex has access to the keys and codes. The trio get word of a man who supposedly has a small fortune in his home. The kicker? He is blind, making him the perfect target, or so they think. Without spoilers, let’s just say that these youngsters get a lot more than they bargained for. 

The Filmaholic Reviews: Don't Breathe (2016)

Three blind mice...see how they run...

   While technically a thriller, Don’t Breathe is one of the most effective horror films in years because of its tight and clever script, and because it utilizes horror filmmaking techniques in ways more creative than the standard horror movie. The premise is simple enough, yet it is enough to build on expectations and then subvert them. With that being said, the premise is also pretty screwed up. A blind man would logically be the perfect victim, one would not expect that he would be able to turn the tables. This is similar to the excellent horror/thriller Hush (2016), which was about a deaf and mute woman being terrorized in her own home. That is also pretty screwed up. 

The Filmaholic Reviews: Don't Breathe (2016)

By the way, I highly recommend Hush. It is terrifying.

The premise of Don’t Breathe is also grounded in reality to an extent. So many horror films are about ghosts, demons, zombies, or chainsaw-wielding psychos chasing dumb teenagers, and these films are tiresome because they break our suspension of disbelief. Don’t Breatheis about a home invasion, which is a very real threat, so it is easier to buy into it because it feels real. While the film does serve up some nasty twists that threaten to unravel the story’s credibility, by then, the audience is so invested in the film and the characters that they want to see what happens next. Some of the twists are also delightfully sick enough to satiate the most hardcore or horror fans, and possibly make everyone else incredibly uncomfortable. It is also nice that the actors are competent in their roles, and get just enough backstory and character development to be effective throughout the film. Jane Levy (the Evil Dead remake) is Rocky, who is sick of her dead-end life at home. Here, she showcases the same acting chops that made her so effective in Evil Dead, especially when the home invasion goes horribly wrong. I would love to see her in more roles. Daniel Zovatto (It Follows) is Money, Rocky’s high-and-mighty douche of a boyfriend. It’s hard to take this character seriously since Zovatto hams it up quite a bit. Dylan Minnette (Prisoners) is Alex, the wimp of the group who tagged along. His character isn’t deep, but he is a genuinely sympathetic character. The true star of the film however, is Stephen Lang (Avatar) as the Blind Man. He has very little dialogue, but he is an intimidating force on screen, and certainly creepier than any ghost I’ve seen in a movie. Perhaps the biggest reason why Don’t Breathe is so terrifying is because of the film’s excellent use of sound, or rather, the lack thereof. Some sequences of the film use long stretches of silence to emphasize the tension, and this results in the film living up to its title. Total silence in a film is rare, especially in horror films where the soundtrack plays an important part in the film’s atmosphere. Often, the soundtrack is also used to cue scary moments such as jump scares. (SOME MINOR SPOILERS) Director Fede Alvarez actually blends silence with jump scares to play the audience and generate nail-biting suspense. One sequence has the main characters attempting to flee the house silently, when the Blind Man pops up unexpectedly behind them, forcing quick gasps from the characters and then immediate silencing of those gasps, lest the Blind Man hear them. Funny thing is that the same thing happened to the audience. The jump scare initially forced a cry of surprise from some audience members, but they immediately went silent to match the characters onscreen. (END OF SPOILERS)The film’s setting is also simple yet meticulous. The Blind Man’s home is filled with claustrophobic, mazelike hallways and is located in a rundown neighborhood. Basically, our protagonists are completely isolated and trapped in this hellhole, making for a pure cat-and-mouse thriller. Long story short, Don’t Breathe is a near perfect horror experience. Don’t be fooled by the simple story. Don’t Breathe lays a familiar foundation, then pulls the rug from underneath the viewer numerous times. The film is distilled to pure terror, and one might find themselves breathless from holding their breath during the film. Without saying anymore, I implore you to go see this film immediately.
©Filmaholic Reviews, 2016

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