Don’t Breathe is refreshingly simple for a horror film: no supernatural demons nor inanimate object antagonists, and all the laws of physics apply. The film follows three teenagers (Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, and Daniel Zovatto) who decide to rob a blind man (Stephen Lang) in his home on a deserted neighborhood street.
However, the blind man is a buff, gun-friendly homeowner violently dispositioned to keep his cash, and he locks them in his house after their attempt to put him to sleep fails. What follows is a cat-and-mouse chase that lasts the entire night.
The film is appropriately titled, as the characters must hold their breath to avoid detection while hiding in the house’s nooks and crannies, and so too does the audience hold its breath as the struggle proceeds with only momentary pauses.
Don’t Breathe is at times excessively intense, and the violence is not always easy to watch, but it undeniably earns every point of its R-rating. The old man throws the plot for a loop when the teens discover what he is hiding in his basement, and the film turns uncomfortable. As the rising action continues, things turn really gross, and the old man has a novel moral relativism that is fun for a horror film. He is a formidable villain, but you cannot entirely blame him for his motivation. Certainly the man is legally in the clear for attacking these teenager thieves.
If you like for movies to truly creep you out, this one is for you. The suspense and violence are self-indulgent and explorative past gratuitous lengths, and the film’s only moment of catharsis is a surprising twist as funny as it is unexpected.
The script is charmingly original, and the obstacles preventing escape are borderline aggravating because every opportunity and hope for the teens gets quickly extinguished. The final conclusion is both a cliffhanger and a satisfying end, and the filmmakers might as well utilize their creepily blind Stephen Lang character for some other Cormac McCarthy-esque story since the film has easily recouped its expenses.
Contemptor Grade: 9.5