By Sean Ray | a&e editor
Before I begin this review, let me ultimately state that I enjoyed “Don’t Breathe.” It was a fun, suspenseful slasher-thriller that left me on the edge of my seat, and I recommend seeing it.
Got that? Good, because I’m about to complain a lot.
“Don’t Breathe” follows a trio of burglars trying to make ends meet in impoverished Detroit. There’s Rocky (Jane Levy), the sympathetic girl in an abusive family just trying to get enough money to escape to California; Alex (Dylan Minette), who is the obvious love interest for Rocky; and finally, there is Money (Daniel Zovatto), the crude, tough-talking and crime enjoying-member who is obviously going to die first.
These three companions decide to make one last score: robbing the $300,000 a local blind Iraq veteran (Stephen Lang) got as a settlement from a car crash that killed his daughter—which he has not spent any of, for some reason. However, this former soldier isn’t as helpless as the gang thought he would be, and what was supposed to be an easy job turns into a fight for their lives.
“Don’t Breathe” makes an interesting stylistic choice by revealing pretty much everything that will happen in the first few minutes of its run time. As the group initially breaks into the house, the camera lingers on various objects that will play an important role in the coming plot, whether it’s some shards of glass or a hammer hanging on the wall. This opening was incredibly enjoyable and a very nice long-take that is so rarely seen in modern horror.
Unfortunately, as the plot goes on, “Don’t Breathe” falls into a lot of the traps and pitfalls so many horror films make these days. An over-emphasis is placed on jump scares rather than real suspense or terror. While only a few of these scares come out of nowhere, they are frequent enough to be annoying. That’s not to say there aren’t better terrifying moments, but they do not come until later on in the movie, when the action really gets under way.
The abilities of the blind man seem to vary greatly from scene to scene. In one moment, he is able to hear someone breathing in another room, while in another he can’t tell someone is right next to him. While the film tries to explain this away as him “focusing” on finding his quarry, it does come off as a little inconsistent.
Even his weaknesses aren’t portrayed the same way. Toward the end of the film, one of the characters manages to activate the man’s house alarm, the blaring sirens harming his sensitive ears. This might have made sense had he not been shooting a gun the entire movie, something which is certainly a lot louder and a lot closer to his ears than the alarms.
The film’s biggest misstep comes towards the climax. As it turns out, the blind man has a dark secret he wishes to keep—well, a secret and this is the primary reason he is trying to kill the gang rather than just incapacitate them or call the cops. While I won’t elaborate, the movie makes a somewhat silly concession to the bad thing the man did, which turns his action from scary to kind of laughably stupid, killing any sense of danger.
It’s hard to explain, but once you see it, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Imagine someone utterly destroying your car, but then telling you that it’s ok, because they didn’t slash your tires.
Seemingly in tune with the film’s opening sequence, “Don’t Breathe” holds few surprises for the viewer. This might just be the horror movie fan in me talking, but I predicted most of the entire plot from the get-go and foresaw every jump scare coming.
However, while it may not be revolutionary, the film works well with what it does have. There are plenty of good horror moments to be had, they’ve just been done before but not with the same level of polish. Sometimes, formulas just work.