Don’t Breathe (2016) – Film Review

Truly a visual treat when it comes to the film’s lighting and attractive colour palette, ‘Don’t Breathe’ is the second big-screen outing for director Fede Alvarez after he took-on the extremely gory: ‘Evil Dead’ remake a few years prior. Through its original story, incredibly tense atmosphere, brilliant cast as well as iconic horror director Sam Rami on-board as a producer, ‘Don’t Breathe’ manages to constantly remain both entertaining and thrilling in spite of nearly all its runtime taking-place within a single location.

When a trio of thieves break into an elderly blind man’s home in an attempt to steal the loan given to him as a settlement for his daughter’s death. They soon begin to realise that the old man isn’t as helpless as first seems, leaving the group to find a way out before its too late.

This simple yet unique plot is truly ripe for creating tense moments, as the film utilizes its main location of the ‘Blind Man’s house to the best of its advantage. Having the trio of characters make their way through the house’s tight corridors and dark rooms with plenty of extremely close encounters with the blind old man. Even having to hold their breath at points so he can’t hear them breathe (as the title of the film implies). Alongside this, ‘The Blind Man’ also has a pet rottweiler, which lends itself to creating even more intense scenes as the characters get pursed by the vicious canine. Who was actually portrayed by three different dog actors on-set named: Athos, Astor, and Nomad respectively.

Stephan Lang, best known for his role as ‘Colonel Miles Quaritch’ in ‘Avatar’, portrays the film’s antagonist only ever-known as ‘The Blind Man’, and does a phenomenal job of it. Giving the audience an almost sympathetic view of the character through his innocent performance early-on before then quickly becoming far more unhinged and incredibly intimidating every-time he is on-screen. The rest of the cast of Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette and Daniel Zovatto also give remarkable performances as the young group of thieves, despite their characters only receiving a small amount of characterisation near the beginning of the film.

The cinematography by Pedro Luque is surprisingly inventive throughout, as in addition to the film’s array of visually pleasing shots. ‘Don’t Breathe’ actually uses its cinematography to allude to moments that come later within the narrative. In particular, in the scene where the trio first break into ‘The Blind Man’s house, as the camera glides through the various different rooms focusing on key objects or areas for reasons that are revealed later down the line. However, the real visual flair of the film is definitely the stunning lighting and colour palette as already mentioned, from dirty blues and greens to overly bright oranges. Each location (whether inside or out) is always given its own distinct appeal, sometimes even replicating what the audience should be feeling at that point, whether that is fear or relief.

Roque Baños, the same composer who previously worked with director Fede Alvarez on the ‘Evil Dead’ remake, returns to work alongside him once again. This time around crafting an original score which is both eerie and memorable, as the score uses metallic bangs and crashes to fit with the story’s location, giving the soundtrack a real personality similar to the film itself. ‘Don’t Breathe’ also uses its score very effectively, only placing it within more fast-paced moments after the tension has already risen, rather than overusing the original score in scenes where silence is mostly required.

When it comes to its runtime, ‘Don’t Breathe’ is actually quite short. As due to the film wanting to keep its viewer on-edge throughout nearly the entirety of its narrative, ‘Don’t Breathe’ is cautious not to overstay it’s welcome, an issue that many horror flicks have suffered from. As many horrors in the past have overplayed their concepts, eventually making them far less frighting/interesting by the time the credits roll. That being said however, I couldn’t help but feel a few more scenes with our protagonists wouldn’t have gone amiss, as there were actually a number of more character-focused scenes shot for the film before inevitably being cut.

In conclusion, I strongly enjoy ‘Don’t Breathe’, as this edge-of-the-seat horror/thriller is in my opinion, a genuine pleasure to watch every-time. As aside from desiring a little more characterisation for the protagonists, I have very few issues with this one. As Stephen Lang’s sensational performance, in addition to the film’s great visuals and large number of tension-filled moments, leave ‘Don’t Breathe’ one of the most memorable indie horrors made in quite some-time. A high 8/10 overall. Personally, I’m really looking forward to seeing what else this interesting director has-up his sleeve, horror or not.

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