“Don’t Breathe” is a phenomenal step for the suspense genre. It takes the fairly unoriginal idea of a home invasion and flips the roles so that the intruders are the protagonists and the sight-impaired homeowner is the villain.
Rocky (Jane Levy) and Alex (Dylan Minnette) are reluctant thieves in modern-day Detroit. One last heist is all they need to end their careers as larcenists, and the job seemingly couldn’t be easier – the house belongs to a blind man (Stephen Lang). However, they quickly become trapped and learn the horrifying truth about the man they set out to rob.
This film isn’t afraid to break horror norms such as an easy escape from a near-death situation. Without spoiling the plot, I’ll just say that I was terrified at the level of realism in the story, and satisfied with the choices the director made when it came to shocking us.
“Don’t Breathe” certainly isn’t afraid to jump-scare us, but luckily it knows to use these in moderation. The cinematographer often adds to the suspense effectively by having the protagonists and antagonist in the same shot, though not always aware of the location of the other. The camera angles are remarkably consistent for reminding the viewer of just how small the setting is; it is, after all, a house.
Even though the setting of the film is small, “Don’t Breathe” does a great job using the space. In one scene, the characters are trapped in the basement where they lose their only advantage against their adversary: light. Things suddenly get dark not only for the protagonists but for the audience, and this disorienting change is followed by a thrilling action sequence.
“Don’t Breathe” is a smart, relentless thriller that will keep you scared throughout. The plot itself isn’t difficult for the average moviegoer to follow, but it’s interesting enough to set it apart. I recommend it to fans of horror who want a true thrill ride. Remember … just don’t breathe.
This film is rated R.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.