Monday, September 19, 2016

Don't Breathe - a breathless thrill ride

movie review

Don't Breathe

Starring: Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, and Stephen Lang
Director: Fede Alvarez
Tagline: This house looked like an easy target. Until they found what was inside.

Hollywood hasn’t exactly been at its best this summer. Many of the biggest, most anticipated blockbusters of the season have turned out to be downright disappointing. However, some of the smaller projects that have come along have been considerably well-crafted than their more expensive counterparts, and horror-thriller Don’t Breathe falls in this category.

The film revolves around three friends whose attempt to burglarise a house ends up in a struggle for survival.

Rocky (Jane Levy), her boyfriend Money (Daniel Zovatto), and their friend Alex (Dylan Minnette) have been making a living by robbing houses. They target homes secured by Alex’s father’s security company, taking only items they can sell. But the group decides to loot cash when they find out a sightless army veteran (Stephen Lang) is hiding thousands of dollars – the settlement money he received after a wealthy young woman killed his daughter in a car accident – in his heavily secured, barricaded house. Seeing this as a chance to escape their poverty-ridden lives, the trio breaks into the blind man’s home, only to discover their target isn’t exactly as helpless as they might’ve expected. The friends find themselves being mercilessly hunted by the owner of the house that is also hiding a shocking secret within its walls.

While its setting may not seem exceptional, Don’t Breathe gives an interesting spin to the home invasion premise, giving us an intense thriller that keeps the viewers on the edge of their seats. The movie averts many common clich├ęs, and instead of just relying on gore or jump scares, it opts to focus on creating a dark, sinister ambience where obstacles constantly worry the protagonists. Best enjoyed by avoiding all spoilers before you watch it, the film’s storyline surprises you midway with a twist you definitely won’t see coming. But you may or may not find it ludicrous, depending on how much you analyse it.

Director Fede Alvarez amps up the suspense as the house turns into a claustrophobic prison for the thieves, building up the dread with each turn. Although where he and his team don’t succeed is in making the central trio particularly interesting. A few stereotypes are at place in some of the characterisations. Money, in particular, isn’t presented as anything beyond a caricatured thug. Rocky, however, gets the most character development, with her wish to move from Detroit to California with her sister to get away from her neglectful-mother. You are, ultimately, left with the feeling that the writers could have made the characters more compelling, although the solid cast makes up for some of the deficiencies. Levy delivers an impressive performance as the criminal-turned-victim, but the standout is definitely Lang, whose menacing blind man makes the film scary.

On the whole, Don’t Breathe is well-made and engrossing, as the tense execution turns the relatively simple premise into a suspenseful and creepy thriller. While it isn’t exactly the most memorable horror film you’ll ever see, Don’t Breathe offers plenty of scares and is likely to please the fans of the genre.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

- Sameen Amer

The Express Tribune website - 19th September, 2016 *

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