Don't Breathe (2016) review

Updated on September 2, 2016
The official one-sheet theatrical poster for "Don't Breathe."
The official one-sheet theatrical poster for "Don't Breathe." | Source

Trapped in Hell's Kitchen

Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette), and Money (Daniel Zovatto) are three friends capitalizing on the fact that Alex’s father is in the home security business and rob clients’ houses of whatever they desire. Taking place in Michigan, Rocky has dreams of taking her little sister and going to California to get as far away from their damaged mother as possible. So Rocky, along with her boyfriend Money, plan on stealing enough to make their getaway as Rocky’s best friend Alex continues to crush on Rocky from the sidelines.

The trio thinks they’ve found an easy jackpot when they discover a veteran who lives alone (played by Stephen Lang) that is sitting on at least $300,000 thanks to a six figure settlement due to the loss of his only daughter. Even though the man turns out to be blind, he’s much more dangerous than he seems as the three friends get caught trying to escape with their lives rather than a bag full of money.

The most interesting aspect of Don’t Breathe is that none of the characters feel like typical protagonists. Whenever you think you have it figured out on which character you should root for something is revealed about them to make you realize none of the four main characters are saints. Three young adults are house burglars for their own selfish desires while a seemingly helpless blind man has his own terrifying secrets to hide.

Daniel Zovatto, Jane Levy, and Dylan Minnette in "Don't Breathe."
Daniel Zovatto, Jane Levy, and Dylan Minnette in "Don't Breathe." | Source

Don’t Breathe is the Uruguayan director and screenwriter Fede Alvarez’s follow-up to the gruesome and surprisingly awesome remake of Evil Dead. Jane Levy, who is the leading actress in Alvarez’s Evil Dead, makes the transition to Don’t Breathe as the hopeful dreamer Rocky. While The Blind Man is given a shocking backstory with a couple reveals that will leave your jaw on the floor, Rocky’s history with ladybugs is an interesting examination of how far the Rocky character has come. There is depth to both Rocky and The Blind Man, which is something that could be considered unusual for a horror film. Character development is often overlooked for a string of cheap scares, which Don't Breathe is mostly absent of.

Don't Breathe Official Trailer

The horror factor of Don’t Breathe does so much with sound; more so than the average film. Since a key player has lost his vision enhancing the sound and utilizing that factor to engage the audience allows each viewer a glimpse into how The Blind Man experiences his surroundings. The “now you’re going to see what I see” sequence where the lights are cut off is terrifying since someone has become so dominant in this pitch black environment. Every little sound, whether it’s a creak in a floorboard, a cellphone vibrating, or an exhaled breath or whispered scream coming out louder than expected, is a deadly risk that could result in someone getting caught and brutally executed.

Dylan Minnette and Stephen Lang in "Don't Breathe."
Dylan Minnette and Stephen Lang in "Don't Breathe." | Source
Stephen Lang as The Blind Man in "Don't Breathe."
Stephen Lang as The Blind Man in "Don't Breathe." | Source

There are shades of Panic Room in Don’t Breathe as well as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as the disgusting use of a turkey baster will make Christian Bale’s awkward handling of the cooking utensil in David Ayer’s Harsh Times seem tame. The issue is the third act keeps you from fully embracing and absolutely adoring the film. Don’t Breathe spends so much time being a different kind of horror/home invasion thriller film and going against the grain that it’s inevitable that it would eventually slide back into the cliché category

Truly horrific moments are teased in the film that dive away from the barrel of the gun right before the trigger is pulled or are dragged out for so long in slow motion that you can predict its outcome long before the reveal. Since you can’t invest in either Rocky and her friends or The Blind Man, it’s as if Alvarez knew this going in and decided that the film could logically only end in a stalemate which leaves this unwanted aftertaste as the film ends.

Jane Levy and Dylan Minnette in "Don't Breathe."
Jane Levy and Dylan Minnette in "Don't Breathe." | Source

Fede Alvarez did a hell of a job rebooting Evil Dead and managed to satisfy fans of the original trilogy and horror hounds that are always on the search for a film that will appease their thirst for blood. Don’t Breathe is a solid sophomore effort that is mostly unique and features another emotionally exhausting performance from Jane Levy while shining this chillingly hair-rising spotlight on Stephen Lang. Don’t Breathe is a fiercely brutal plunge down the rabbit hole. Home invasion films won’t see Don’t Breathe coming.

3 stars for Don't Breathe (2016)

Questions & Answers


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        3 years ago

        I have heard that the movie is equally criticized and appreciated. Thank you for the detailed review, quite helpful. Let's see if it can beat Conjuring 2. LOL.


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