Don’t Breathe (2016) Review

After a three-year hiatus since making his feature-length directorial debut in the gritty reboot of 2013’s Evil Dead, Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez finally returns with his long-awaited sophomore effort in Don’t Breathe.

The film follows a trio of small-time thieves — Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) — figure it’s an easy job robbing a rich blind man (Stephen Lang) in his house, they soon discover the blind man isn’t a pushover after all.

Whereas Alvarez’s Evil Dead is heavy on excessive gore and supernatural elements, Don’t Breathe is a polar opposite altogether. Instead, it’s a home invasion thriller that focuses more on suspense and intense violence. No doubt Alvarez treads familiar ground that has been done to death, but the movie does benefit with some technical brilliance worth praising for. For instance, the scene where the three thieves break and enter The Blind Man’s house is brilliantly shot in one take. However, the real standout here is the basement scene in which The Blind Man switches off the lights that give him the advantage to prowl on the thieves easily in a total blackout. What makes the scene even more terrifying and suspenseful is Pedro Luque’s outstanding use of night-vision camerawork. Alvarez also made good use of the movie’s closed off space set within the two-storey house to stage some effective claustrophobic tension.

The three young stars — Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette and Daniel Zovatto — are adequate enough for their respective roles. Stephen Lang, in the meantime, nearly steals the show as The Blind Man.

Despite all the technical prowess and engaging cast, the movie’s supposedly brisk 88 minutes isn’t entirely successful. The problem here lies with Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues’ screenplay trying to surprise the viewers with an unexpected twist surrounding The Blind Man’s hidden agenda. While it’s nice to give The Blind Man a sense of motivation on why he’s acting like a raging psychopath, the twist — which involved an extended turkey baster sequence — is supposed to be emotionally unpleasant. Sure, the scene itself is shocking but too bad Alvarez executes it with such a distasteful result. Then there is the unnecessary open ending in which Alvarez chooses to go for the generic slasher route (if you’re a true horror fan, you’ll know what I’m talking about).

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