Horror is an unusual genre. There are some truly great horrors out there but for every great one there are twenty not so great ones. With so many being released each year, especially around Halloween, the genre gets formulaic very quickly. The current climate relies heavily on CGI and gore to shock audiences while every now and then, a genre busting film will rewrite the rules. Films such as The Blair Witch Project, The Shinning and The Exorcist are just a few names that have successfully done so.
Don’t Breath, the new Horror from Fede Álvarez, does not join this seminal list of horror greats. Yet the film does suitably keep the audience on the edge of their seats as three young people fight for their lives locked in a house with a maniac.
Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette,) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) are three youths living in a Detroit who rob houses. Selling what they take and getting little money back, the trio get a tip that an old man has $300,000 stashed away in his house. Staking out the house in an abandoned neighbourhood they realised the man, a retired veteran, is in fact blind. They decided to break in as their last job that could set them up for life. Once inside the house, it is clear the blind man (Stephen Lang) is not as helpless as they had assumed and once they become trapped inside, they discover just what they are locked in with.
Directed by Fede Álvarez who also directed Evil Dead, the fourth in The Evil Dead franchise, Don’t Breathe is a sleeper hit was made with a small budget of under ten million and a cast of unknowns. The film throws the audience straight into the plot and moves with good pace. We know the characters, their backgrounds, and then bring them all together inside the house. When the sleeping bomb they have planted does not work on the blind man, he faces the intruders and proves to be fearsome opponent, despite his lack of sight. The narrative is filed with jumps and suspense as the trio aim to escape. Once in the basement , the true nature of the blind man becomes clear and the stakes are raised even further to escape the now locked house.
There are pitfalls which the films falls into and cannot overcome. Despite Rocky’s tragic home life and Alex’s puppy love, the pair are still only in the house because they broke in to steal from a blind man. No matter how much the film reveals the blind man to be a grotesque human being, you can never escape this fact. It makes their characters unsympathetic despite what they face inside the house.
The ‘you think they are free but oh no’ thing is also used so many times in the third act. It becomes repetitive and drags out its running time. Don’t Breathe also plays up on the gross factor in particular a scene involving the blind man and Rocky in the basement that will make audience gag. Despite these downfalls the cast of relative new comers all play their parts well, believably petrified and fighting for survival in a small space. The film does portray claustrophobia in a confined space well, adding to the dread of the audience.
Don’t Breathe will gradually gain a small audience and delivers its fair share of suspense and jumps but still does nothing new with the genre. Yet proving once and for all that if you break into a house in America you are going to get shot.
Don’t Breathe is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now!