EVALUATION: Don’t Breathe hits the ground running, with an economical setup, and wastes no time getting to the good parts. It clocks in at a lean, taut 88 minutes, and Alvarez makes every second count.
Levy is excellent. Her part calls for a lot of wild-eyed but silent terror, and she does it as well as anyone. But it is Stephen Lang as The Blind Man who elevates Don’t Breathe to something special. He’s well above your cookie-cutter, garden-variety villain. He’s given a compelling backstory, and even though he makes horrible choices and performs despicable acts, he is still recognizably human – and relatable. He’s damaged goods, a wounded warrior (very different from his Colonel Quaritch in Avatar) whose past compels him to evil doings.
You won’t find a horror film that makes better use of the complete absence of sound. Agonizing stretches play out in complete silence. It compels the viewer to watch in silence, as well, and you really do hesitate to even breathe. The jump scares are well-executed and mostly earned, all the more devastating as they emerge from deathly quiet.
Any review of Don’t Breathe would be remiss without a word on Pedro Luque‘s cinematography. Most of the film takes place in a blind man’s house, much of the time in partial to total darkness. This presents special challenges. How many films have you squinted at, trying to make out details obscured by shadows and dimness? Nothing of the sort here. It’s gorgeously framed and shot throughout, and everything is clear (when it needs to be). You always have a strong sense of the geography of the set. The layout of the house is honored at all times, across all three floors. That’s no easy feat. And when there is gunfire – and there is plenty of gunfire – the muzzle flash and deafening report hit like fists.
It’s a locked-door thriller that tightens the screws relentlessly. The only one who wants out of that godforsaken house more than the three thieves? Us. The viewers. It’s almost unbearably tense and claustrophobic. In short, this is one for the ages. It’s not perfect, but it is perfectly entertaining, and a must-see for any red-blooded genre fan. Catch it in theaters while you still can.