“Don’t Breathe” hit theaters last weekend as the last summer scare before the season ends. Racking up considerable box office success, the home invasion thriller directed by Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead) promises viewers an intense and uneasy cinematic experience.
Rocky (Jane Levy), her boyfriend Money (Daniel Zovatto), and the “friend zoned” Alex (Dylan Minnette) are an amateur group of robbers from Detroit, using keys from Alex’s father’s security company to break into houses and commit minor theft. However, after Money receives a tip detailing a score worth more than 300 thousand dollars, Rocky agrees to the job in order to get her little sister out of their abusive household, and Alex reluctantly follows along.
The target is a house in the middle of an abandoned neighborhood, owned by a blind veteran (Stephan Lang) who received a large settlement after his daughter was killed in a hit-and-run. Though the job seems cut-and-dry at first, it turns deadly once they realize the man is not the sad recluse they thought he was. Soon it becomes a fatal game of cat-and-mouse throughout the dark, cramped floors of the creaky old house, every step and breath inching them closer to the hands of their pursuer.
“Don’t Breathe” is certainly more of a thriller movie than a horror movie, and that becomes evident as soon as the action starts rolling. Once they are discovered in the house, Money meets an untimely death that changes the whole tone of the film. As Rocky and Alex tiptoe through the house, desperately trying to find a way out from the bars on the windows and the locks on the doors, the man has an almost supernatural advantage over them, with Daredevil-like senses and combat skills. In one of the most memorable scenes of the film, the man shuts off all the lights in the basement, leaving Alex and Rocky to navigate in pure darkness while he stalks them, making for one of the tensest moments in the film. It seemed that every moment you thought Rocky and Alex had time to catch their breath, the man would appear in the doorway behind them.
As the characters develop along with the plot, “Don’t Breathe” does something that most other films don’t: it makes you sympathize with the robbers stealing from a blind, lonely veteran. Rocky is the obvious lead character, championing the role of heroine as she fights to survive with the money in order to move her sister out of their abusive home. The other protagonists do lack proper motivation like Rocky’s, as Alex’s only real reason for being there is to help Rocky, and Money is just after the money.
While the movie is one of the better scary movies to be released in theaters these days and a welcome breath of fresh air from all the sequels and novel adaptations, it does have flaws. There were several moments in the story where the logical chain of events was abandoned for the dramatic. Also, one of the major reveals in the plot completely lacked background and left the viewer with more questions rather than answers. To put it bluntly: it got a little weird.
Despite its flaws, “Don’t Breathe” was still a solid movie, especially considering the other movies in its genre manufactures. For a horror/thriller, it’s definitely in the top tier. If you are looking for a scary flick to welcome in the coming fall season, “Don’t Breathe” will have you gripping the edge of your armrest and holding your breath for the whole hour and half.